U.S. withdrawal would not fix Afghanistan’s problems—and the violence that has plagued that country since long before American troops deployed in 2001 will continue for the foreseeable future. But it requires a break from reality to argue that staying put offers any plausible route to U.S.-orchestrated peace. Extending this generational conflict will only add to the list of unintended and unwanted consequences of years-long occupation. It will only increase the costs of Washington’s strategic foreign policy failure, mire us deeper in a futile nation-building project, and foster anger and chaos instead of the stability Afghanistan needs.
Unexpected federal spending must be an option for emergencies, but the consequences cannot be ignored. Instead of trying and failing to pursue immediate offsets, however, a more realistic approach would recoup those costs over several years. Congress could still address immediate challenges without losing sight of the big picture. That’s the balance the American people expect their public servants to strike on their behalf.
That is unfortunate because the initial push to draw down U.S. military intervention in Somalia was the right one. If Trump isn’t planning to draw down U.S. intervention in Somalia, he should be. Counter-terror in Somalia is a parochial issue which poses no existential threat to America, and there’s no reason for Washington to do Mogadishu’s job.
Syria was becoming a distraction to the great-power strategy the Trump administration should resource. By getting out of Syria, the U.S. nips further mission creep in the bud and refocuses the national security bureaucracy on the priorities that can impact America’s security and economic prosperity.
The White House ordered the Pentagon to pull all U.S. troops out from Syria immediately. President Donald Trump tweeted: “We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump presidency,” a stance that immediately received pushback from more interventionist lawmakers. In addition to the decision to pull out of Syria, made last week, a senior Pentagon official also suggested that troop reductions in Afghanistan are also under discussion.
Trump is right to accept victory in Syria. By September, the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria had lost 99 percent of the territory its vaunted caliphate once held, according to a Pentagon inspector general’s report. With the last vestiges of ISIS territory in Syria falling to U.S.-backed forces in recent days, the goal that drew America into Syria is achieved.
It will be one of the many ironies of the Trump administration if the short-term seduction of a bit of free real estate undermines what might otherwise have turned out to be one of the administration’s few foreign-policy successes: the improvement of alliance burden sharing, an objective sought not only by this President, but by all of his predecessors.
When a project is so grossly mismanaged, that alone should raise strategic questions: Is this something we need to do? Is it crucial to U.S. security? Is it protecting vital U.S. interests and keeping Americans safe? Do the American people even want this done on their behalf? Don’t only ask whether the price for U.S. support of the Saudi war in Yemen was right; ask if it was right for the United States to be involved at all: Should we have refueled those bombers in the first place? Polling indicates most Americans say “no,” and with good reason.
The United States has remained the major military power and leader within NATO by an enormous margin. As a result, all European NATO armies, not just the Germans, have shortchanged common defense by free riding on American power. This defense welfare, funded by the American taxpayer, serves no one’s interests.
The U.S. would be able to pass on much of the cost of protecting Europe—in both blood and treasure—to Europeans themselves, who are already geopolitically situated to stand up for Western interests, in tandem with their American allies, in relation to Russia and non-state threats from Africa and the Middle East.
Washington must not get involved in another war and reconstruction effort that it cannot handle. Instead, America should offer direct aid, coordination an international humanitarian response, and assist Venezuela's neighbors in housing and caring for those who have fled. Washington should also continue to put financial and diplomatic pressure on Mauro. But nothing more.
We are long past the point in which U.S. involvement in Yemen—involvement that Congress has not expressly authorized—is making the prospects of a political resolution more difficult to envision. American military and logistical assistance to the Saudi coalition is morally strategically bankrupt. The U.S. can no longer squander it’s good name on a war in which all of the belligerents are engaging in ruthless conduct.