January 2, 2019
President Donald Trump appears to be delaying the implementation of the order he reportedly gave to draw down troops in Afghanistan in light of fierce criticism for announcing the withdrawal of all 2,000 U.S. personnel from Syria. His communications strategy could certainly be questioned but to oppose the intention to extirpate the United States from costly military interventions abroad is contemptible and on the part of many – especially those within the so-called antiwar crowd – downright disingenuous.
On December 20, reports surfaced – citing unnamed defense officials – that the president had ordered the Pentagon to half the U.S. military’s 14,000-troop footprint in Afghanistan. The news came on the same day Defense Secretary James Mattis resigned and a day after the White House announced that it was bringing forces home from Syria.
Yet after drawing international opprobrium and after days of negative press coverage, Trump now appears to be second guessing himself. More than a week after the first reports surfaced, White House National Security Council spokesman Garret Marquis denied that Trump directed the Defense Department to begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan.
Opposition from war hawks, led by Senator Lindsey Graham, is to be expected. As previously reported in Afghan Online Press, Graham is obviously beholden to the defense industry and has yet to come across a Muslim country he has not wanted to bomb.
However, the outrage emanating from those who were previously against such foreign entanglements is laughable. They are willing to subvert the lives of thousands of American soldiers to their obsessive need to make Trump look bad at all costs.
Most mainstream media networks, including alleged liberal-leaning outfits such as MSNBC, have trotted out current and former officials and experts as guests to slam these moves. Trump, who certainly has a track record of making false proclamations, actually conveyed an accurate appraisal of this phenomenon.
“I am the only person in America who could say that, ‘I’m bringing our great troops back home, with victory,’ and get BAD press,” Trump tweeted on December 31. “It is Fake News and Pundits who have FAILED for years that are doing the complaining. If I stayed in Endless Wars forever, they would still be unhappy!”
Former commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, General McChrystal, went so far as to call Trump “immoral” for wanting to reduce troop levels. One of the more shameful reactions came from Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Lee, the sole member of Congress to vote against authorizing the bombing of Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11, who slammed Trump for lacking a diplomatic strategy to replace the war strategy.
Hillary Clinton came out of the woodwork to remind people why Trump is not such a bad choice as president – she being one of the only people on earth who could make us so grateful. In an ironic tweet Clinton claimed Trump’s decision to withdraw forces from the Middle East will empower ISIS. Remember that it was Trump who accused Clinton and Obama of creating ISIS by withdrawing prematurely from Iraq.
As political commentator and astute observer Jimmy Dore pointed out in a recent podcast it was Hillary and the Obama administration’s pro-war policies that helped fuel terrorism such as the invasion of Libya which turned the African continent’s most stable country into a failed slave-trading state.
No less disturbing than the hysterical and hypocritical reactions themselves is the fact these double standards have gone unnoticed outside fringe groups on the far left who have remained consistently antiwar. Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, to her credit, remained true to her values in expressing disdain for the angst over Trump’s few positive policies. Gabbard said the reaction shows “just how attached to war some are.”
This is not to suggest that Trump is some peace loving humanitarian – his motives are purely political given he campaigned against wasting resources to rebuild foreign lands as opposed to rebuilding at home as part of his “America First” platform.
It is fair to be skeptical of what Trump plans to do in the long run based on his support for drones and torture and mulling the idea of replacing government troops with private mercenaries. Because while the focus has been on the visible U.S. presence in Afghanistan, the CIA has trained, funded and operated shadowy kill teams that have destabilized the country and preyed upon innocent Afghans.
Excellent reporting by the New York Times’ Mujib Mashal has brought to light the off-the-book black operations run by U.S. intelligence that while keeping the likes of the Haqqani Network in check have also led to unspeakable atrocities.
“The units have also operated unconstrained by battlefield rules designed to protect civilians, conducting night raids, torture and killings with near impunity, in a covert campaign that some Afghan and American officials say is undermining the wider American effort to strengthen Afghan institutions,” Mashal said in a report published on December 31.
Marshal also said local officials have complained that the abuses committed during these operations “are actively pushing people toward the Taliban.”
There is a legitimate concern that Trump could see the black operations as a cheaper alternative to the deployment of conventional forces. If so, the C.I.A. will likely continue undermining Afghan interests as it has since the 1950s when it set up shop to fuel Islamic extremism via the Asia Foundation.