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Generational Dynamics Web Log for 23-Aug-2017
23-Aug-17 World View -- Trump promises victory in Afghanistan by redefining 'victory'

Web Log - August, 2017

23-Aug-17 World View -- Trump promises victory in Afghanistan by redefining 'victory'

An Afghanistan policy guided by generational theory

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from

Trump promises victory in Afghanistan by redefining 'victory'

Trump giving speech on Monday evening (AP)
Trump giving speech on Monday evening (AP)

Most Americans are in denial about the fact that the US and China are headed for a major world war, but the people in the Administration are well aware of this. So any Afghanistan policy is going to be formulated with the impending world war in mind, but without saying so. This fact at least partially explains the confusion surrounding the Afghanistan policy announced by President Donald Trump on Monday evening. As I've written in the past, the Afghanistan war is a problem with no solution. But the least bad solution is one which prepares for the war with China.

Trump said in his speech:

"But we must also acknowledge the reality I am here to talk about tonight: that nearly 16 years after September 11th attacks, after the extraordinary sacrifice of blood and treasure, the American people are weary of war without victory. Nowhere is this more evident than with the war in Afghanistan, the longest war in American history -- 17 years. ...

[O]ur nation must seek an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices that have been made, especially the sacrifices of lives. The men and women who serve our nation in combat deserve a plan for victory. They deserve the tools they need, and the trust they have earned, to fight and to win."

So, Trump is proposing a plan for victory. He describes what "victory" means:

"Our troops will fight to win. We will fight to win. From now on, victory will have a clear definition: attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing al Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan, and stopping mass terror attacks against America before they emerge."

He explains further:

"Ultimately, it is up to the people of Afghanistan to take ownership of their future, to govern their society, and to achieve an everlasting peace. We are a partner and a friend, but we will not dictate to the Afghan people how to live, or how to govern their own complex society. We are not nation-building again. We are killing terrorists."

Is victory possible, with this redefinition of "victory"?

Well, there will certainly be a lot of terrorists to kill. The terrorists al-Qaeda in Iraq were able to withdraw and go home. The Taliban cannot withdraw and go home, because they're already at home. Furthermore, the generation of young Pashtuns will get larger and larger, and they will gain more territory and conduct more terrorist acts in Kabul and elsewhere. So does that conform to Trump's definition of "victory"? I report, you decide.

I believe it's also true that Trump and the generals have a larger purpose in mind than just killing terrorists in Afghanistan, and I heard one analyst provide such a purpose.

There are several American military bases in Afghanistan, including two air bases in Bagram and Kandahar International Airport. These bases will be valuable in any future war with China. So remaining in Afghanistan allows us continued use of those bases, as the war with China and Pakistan approaches.

If that's the case, then the Administration had better brace itself for a lot of continued bad news, before those bases become useful.

As I've said many times before, the Afghanistan problem has no solution, and by that I mean not that no one has been clever enough to find a solution, but rather that no solution exists. One could argue that the plan Trump announced was a bad plan because there was no good outcome, but it's possible that it's still the best plan available, in that other plans have worse outcomes. White House and Military Bases

An Afghanistan policy guided by generational theory

I've always felt that the country would be much better off if foreign policy could be guided by Generational Dynamics analysis, rather than by ideology. Barack Obama's policies were purely (left-wing) ideologically driven and never made any sense at all, and led to one disaster after another. My hope was that Steve Bannon, who is an expert on Generational Dynamics, could guide the Trump administration to a foreign policy that would be analytically driven, and would be best for the country.

With Bannon now out of the White House, the question now arises whether Donald Trump's foreign policies will be purely (right-wing) ideologically driven and still make no sense at all. The announcement of the Afghanistan plan provides a first look.

First, it was clear that Trump based his plan on the advice of military leaders. In interviews last year, all three of Obama's former secretaries of defense confirmed that the Obama administration ignored military advice, and made military decisions based on ideology. Trump did not do that, but instead worked with the military to develop a plan. This is a good thing.

Second, it has been widely reported that the (right-wing) ideological driven policy advocated by Rand Paul and others was to withdraw completely all forces from Afghanistan. Trump himself has recommended this in the past. As I wrote two weeks ago in my analysis of US Afghanistan policy, complete withdrawal would have potentially disastrous results, giving the Taliban total victory, collapsing the government completely, and dealing a huge blow to India. In his speech, Trump pointed out these same issues, and repudiated his previous recommendation for a completely withdrawal of all forces. This is also a good thing.

Third, there had been rumors that Trump would announce an increase of 20,000 troops, with the intention of defeating the Taliban. As one conservative analyst put it, "Don't do what Obama did and micromanage the troops. Let them do their thing and win." That attitude is highly delusional, as I'll come back to below. At any rate, Trump did not do that. That is also a good thing.

Trump did not announce the number of additional troops that will be sent to Afghanistan, but sources have put the number at around 4,500, in addition to the 8,400 already there. But these troops will not be there for "nation-building," according to Trump. Their purpose will be for "attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing al Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan, and stopping mass terror attacks against America before they emerge."

Related Articles

Pushing on to victory - as in WW II, Iraq 1991, Afghanistan 2001, Iraq 2007

I have previous written many times, victory in the Afghan war is impossible. By that I meant victory in the sense of any of America's previous victories -- WW II, Iraq 1991, Afghanistan 2001, Iraq 2007. Instead, I pointed out that victory in Afghanistan now is impossible, largely because of the relationship between the radicalized ethnic Pashtuns (Taliban) in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

However, Trump in his speech did promise victory in Afghanistan. So let's look at those four examples of victory from the point of view of Generational Dynamics, and see why they're irrelevant to Afghanistan today:

None of these examples is in any way comparable to Afghanistan today. In particular, Afghanistan is completely different today than it was in 2001. The main thing that's changed in the 16 years since the 2001 Afghan war is that a whole new generation of Pashtuns have come of age. They are not war-weary like these parents. Furthermore, there are more of them every day. Even if, by some miracle, most of the existing Taliban fighters could be wiped out, they would be replaced quickly by other Pashtuns in the young generations. That would be true even if it weren't for Pakistan, but Pakistan makes it worse, because the ethnic Pashtun community stretches across borders into both countries.

For similar reasons, the 2007 Iraq war is not comparable. Al-Qaeda in Iraq was a foreign force that could be ejected, but the Taliban and the Pashtuns are basically the same people, differing only in extent of radicalization.

Related Articles

Rex Tillerson denies that 'battlefield victory' is possible

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made a significant clarification on Tuesday, saying that there is no way to win a "battlefield victory." It's impossible to tell whether Tillerson wanted to directly contradict Trump's statement that he was proposing "a plan for victory," or if he used the phrase "battlefield victory" to distinguish his use of the word "victory" from Trump's use.

Since a victory in Afghanistan is impossible, but it's important to maintain bases in Afghanistan for the coming war with China, Tillerson said:

"This entire effort is intended to put pressure on the Taliban to have them understand: you will not win a battlefield victory. We may not win one, but neither will you. At some point, we have to come to the negotiating table and find a way to bring this to an end.

Thereís been an erosion in trust because we have witnessed terrorist organizations being given safe haven inside of Pakistan to plan and carry out attacks against U.S. servicemen, U.S. officials, disrupting peace efforts inside of Afghanistan. Pakistan in particular can play an important role here certainly in delivering the Taliban to the negotiating table."

The last part of this statement is completely delusional (assuming that anyone in the Administration actually believes it), though it's probably necessary to satisfy critics. There is zero probability that the Taliban would agree to a negotiated peace, or that Pakistan will help. If they agree to negotiate at all, it would be only for the same reason that North Korea and Iran negotiate -- to get financial aid or some other benefit in exchange for promising some concession, and then renege on the promise once the benefit is received.

America redefines its relationship with Pakistan and India

For years, American foreign policy generally gave the perception of not choosing sides between Pakistan and India, but Trump's Afghanistan speech made a significant change by giving the perception that the US is choosing India. This makes sense because it's inevitable. As I've been saying for years, the approaching Clash of Civilizations world war will pit the United States + India + Russia + Iran versus China + Pakistan + the Sunni Muslim countries.

Trump's discussion of India and Pakistan in his speech was highly significant. He said:

"For its part, Pakistan often gives safe haven to agents of chaos, violence, and terror. The threat is worse because Pakistan and India are two nuclear-armed states whose tense relations threaten to spiral. ...

The next pillar of our new strategy is to change the approach and how to deal with Pakistan. We can no longer be silent about Pakistanís safe havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban, and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond. Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan. It has much to lose by continuing to harbor criminals and terrorists.

In the past, Pakistan has been a valued partner. Our militaries have worked together against common enemies. The Pakistani people have suffered greatly from terrorism and extremism. We recognize those contributions and those sacrifices.

But Pakistan has also sheltered the same organizations that try every single day to kill our people. We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting. But that will have to change, and that will change immediately. No partnership can survive a countryís harboring of militants and terrorists who target U.S. service members and officials. It is time for Pakistan to demonstrate its commitment to civilization, order, and to peace.

Another critical part of the South Asia strategy for America is to further develop its strategic partnership with India -- the worldís largest democracy and a key security and economic partner of the United States. We appreciate Indiaís important contributions to stability in Afghanistan, but India makes billions of dollars in trade with the United States, and we want them to help us more with Afghanistan, especially in the area of economic assistance and development."

In other words, Trump is threatening to punish Pakistan for providing safe havens to terrorists attacking American forces in Afghanistan, with two kinds of punishment:

The heightened presence of India will be fairly alarming to Pakistan officials. It's pretty obvious that Pakistan can't control militants causing terrorist acts in Kabul, since they can't control militants causing terrorist acts in Karachi.

But even if the Pakistanis could control the Afghan militants, it's highly doubtful that they would want to, according to an editorial written in Pakistan media in June:

"Missing in the policy matrix is the source of tension between Afghanistan and Pakistan that makes prospects for Afghan peace bleaker. Cross-border insurgent sanctuaries are a symptom and not the cause of the growing divide. Relations between the two countries have never been cordial since 2001, but they have hit a new low with the escalation in terrorist attacks that Kabul blames on the Haqqani network allegedly operating from Pakistanís border areas. There has been a further breakdown of relations between the two countries with the recent measures taken by Pakistan to tighten border management.

But the main reason for the increasing trust deficit is Pakistanís concern at the growing Indian presence in Afghanistan. That is also the reason for Pakistan using the Afghan Taliban as a hedge against this development. The heightening tension between India and Pakistan has further intensified Islamabadís apprehensions. Despite its own problem of violent militancy, Islamabad is not willing to take tougher action against the Afghan insurgent sanctuaries.

It is apparent, that no matter how intense the US administrationís pressure, it cannot force Pakistan to change its position."

Well, this has turned out to be a fairly lengthy analytical article, but the conclusions are pretty clear:

In addition, if the US cuts aid to Pakistan, which is inevitable anyway, then China will undoubtedly move to fill the gap, and has already said they will do so. Dawn (Pakistan, 21-June) and Politico and Dawn (Pakistan)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 23-Aug-17 World View -- Trump promises victory in Afghanistan by redefining 'victory' thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (23-Aug-2017) Permanent Link
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