The Evolving War in Afghanistan
Apparently the U.S. has replaced ground troops with airstrikes in Afghanistan. The military claims these strikes are supporting the Afghan government’s fight against the Taliban.
But as the apparent “end date” for the war fast approaches, the Pentagon refuses to commit to ending these airstrikes once August 31st rolls around.
This is troubling for those of us in favor of actually ending the war in Afghanistan. An air campaign can and should be considered a continuation of war.
The Administration and Pentagon seem to be setting the stage for continued involvement albeit absent of ground troops. They speak of the withdrawal as if it’s dependent on the continuation of the Afghan government.
But the current breakdown of power in Afghanistan is itself a direct result of U.S. involvement.
When the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001, they essentially disrupted a civil war. Unsurprisingly, the most powerful military in history quickly changed the tide of the conflict and drove the Taliban government out of power.
The U.S. basically installed a new government that is still ruling Kabul today. However, many around the country rejected the legitimacy of this new regime.
For twenty years, the U.S. has been struggling to get Afghans to view this new government as legitimate.
As the U.S. military leaves, it takes its hand off the scale. A change in the balance of power is to be expected if the withdrawal is genuine.
In reality, an air campaign is the method that will most likely be used to continue the war.
Airstrikes allow the administration to continue fighting while giving the public the illusion of a war ending. Sending troops back into Afghanistan would be costly and controversial. Airstrikes bypass these problems because they are secretive and fast.
Unlike large troop deployments, these airstrikes are strictly classified in the planning stage, which gives the public no chance to make their voices heard before any action is taken.
And by the time the public does hear about a strike, it’s long over. Information about the strike can be selectively released by those who carried it out.
That leaves any omitted information to be pieced together slowly over the following weeks, well after the news cycle has moved on.
Airstrikes give you maximum firepower with minimum controversy. And sadly this is the strategy the U.S. plans to execute in Afghanistan in the years to come.