By Lt. Col. (ret). Daniel L. Davis
In his Aug. 17 op-ed, “Preventing a terrorist victory in Afghanistan,” Stephen J. Hadley declared that President Trump’s main goal in Afghanistan should be to “test” the Taliban’s interest in peace. Mr. Hadley suggested without explanation that insurgents and terrorists can be defeated in Afghanistan, just as the Islamic State was pushed out of Iraq, with a “modest increase” in U.S. forces.
While he was right that it is a vital national interest to prevent terrorist attacks against the U.S. homeland, he was widely off the mark to imply that securing the territory of Afghanistan is necessary to produce that outcome.
As I personally observed over the course of two combat deployments — in 2005 and 2010 to 2011 — even at the height of President Barack Obama’s surge, there were vast tracts of Afghan territory wholly under control of insurgents.
Today, according to the latest report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, the Afghan government outright controls an astonishingly small part of its own territory, 23.8 percent, and only “influences” an additional 35.9 percent. And that is after Mr. Obama’s surge of 17,000 in 2009, his surge of 30,000 in 2010 and 16 years of total U.S. military operations.
What Mr. Hadley called a “new strategy” is nothing more than advocacy for an extension of the failed status quo.
Daniel L. Davis is a Senior Fellow for Defense Priorities and a former Lt. Col. in the U.S. Army who retired in 2015 after 21 years, including four combat deployments. Follow him @DanielLDavis1
This Letter to the Editor was published by The Washington Post on August 20, 2017. Read more HERE.