International Policy Digest

Thomas Cieslak/U.S. Army
World News /28 Jul 2019

President Trump Thinks Killing 10 Million Afghans Would Help America Win the War. Here’s Why His Plan Wouldn’t Work.

“I just don’t want to kill 10 million people. Does that make sense to you? I don’t want to kill 10 million people. I have plans on Afghanistan that, if I wanted to win that war, Afghanistan would be wiped off the face of the Earth. It would be gone. It would be over in — literally, in 10 days,” President Trump said before his bilateral meeting with Pakistan’s prime minister.

In other words, Donald Trump believes that bombing Afghanistan to annihilation would induce an American victory. He deems bombing as the very solution to the war.

His latest statements reflect the president’s tendency to oversimplify complex phenomena without grasping its entirety.

Bombing the existence out of Afghanistan wouldn’t move America an inch closer towards victory, just like how the dropping of the mother of bombs didn’t do much either. Why so?

For starters, the conflict in Afghanistan is a proxy war.

The Taliban are fighting on behalf of Pakistan. They are seeking to secure Pakistan’s interests in Afghanistan.

Unlike many insurgent groups who rely on popular support, the Taliban doesn’t. The Taliban are dependent on their loyal framer and sustainer, the government of Pakistan, to continue their insurgency. As U.S. officials have put it, Pakistan is the “Taliban’s chief ally.”

(Michael J. MacLeod/U.S. Army)

The Taliban are a core pillar of Pakistan’s regional policy. Through the Taliban, Pakistan is weakening Kabul’s claim to the disputed border territories, decreasing Kabul’s ability to strengthen ties with India, increasing its intelligence agency’s access inside Afghanistan, and preventing Afghanistan’s full participation in regional and international politics.

American intelligence and UN reports noted that Pakistan was heavily invested and involved in assisting the Taliban to penetrate large swaths of Afghanistan’s territory in the 1990s. Pakistan trained the Taliban militarily and ideologically. They nurtured the insurgency by providing the Taliban with fighters, food, weapons, technical assistance, and military advisors. The Pakistani intelligence agency spoon-fed information to the Taliban and planned their major military operations. At times, members of the Pakistani intelligence services fought alongside the Taliban.

Further, Pakistan consistently provided safe havens for the Taliban inside its territory. The army has allowed the Taliban land in Peshawar and Quetta to establish their shuras. Besides, it has also given the Taliban land in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) the ability to maintain the momentum of their insurgency. Sartaj Aziz, a senior Pakistani statesman, admitted to this, acknowledging that his government influences the Taliban as their “leadership is in Pakistan and they get some medical facilities. Their families are here.”

Even ISIS in Afghanistan is a project orchestrated by Pakistan’s intelligence agency. America’s previous top military general in Afghanistan affirmed that more than 70% of ISIS fighters in Afghanistan are actually Pakistanis. Secondly, Afghan security officials concluded that ISIS in Afghanistan and the Taliban are essentially the same groups operating under two different banners. According to an Afghan security official, the “Taliban are now operating under the name of Daesh [ISIS] by raising their flags.” Plus, the Afghan defense ministry confirmed that the Haqqani Network, a branch of the Taliban, carries out attacks under the banner of ISIS.

Without Pakistan’s support, neither the Taliban nor ISIS could survive in Afghanistan. All insurgencies require a safe haven and a sponsor to prevail.

Despite Mr. Trump’s confidence, his plan does nothing to address the Taliban’s safe havens in Pakistan nor Pakistan’s support for the Taliban- the main factors prolonging the war.

Before his bilateral meeting with Imran Khan, Mr. Trump claimed that he figures “things out very quickly.” Only one can wonder how soon the president will come to this realization about America’s longest war.