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Editorial: Trump Afghan strategy, a red herring

After months of meticulous negotiations with military and political pundits, the U.S. President Donald Trump finally announced his new strategy on Afghanistan – as part of which he is contemplating having to deploy myriad 4,000 surplus troops in the war-weary country. It is very ironic, though, because Trump had talked about a gradual military withdrawal from Afghanistan before and even after he laid foot in the White House.

Following the 9/11, the U.S. garnered a global unanimity on “fighting terrorism” and sanctioned en masse a military attack on Afghanistan. With a quick defeat of the Taliban, an era of ‘government-nation-building’ and ‘deterrence of terrorism’ unfolded. Even countries with anti-U.S. sentiments were in favor of American invasion of Afghanistan. But now, circumstances are quite different.

The new strategy of American statesmen is bewildered by some challenges: the U.S. is now facing a different era as its presence in the region does not thrill regional stakeholders anymore. The American war strategies in Afghanistan have faltered and Afghan statesmen have not exhibited a collective spirit for fundamental reforms; thus, having spent billions of dollars, the U.S. war on terror in Afghanistan has become the longest insurmountable war of America. It a universally accepted reality and Afghanistan will face a vacuum in security like Iraq, and terrorist networks will resurge after a total exit of the U.S., with a possibility of another 9/11 looming. This all served as a sobering reminder for the U.S. to discard its exit policy and devise a new one. The scope of Trump’s new strategy is prognosticated to go beyond boundaries of Afghanistan – as he has also riveted his attention to other countries in the region. He is feared to downplay Pakistan and instead cling to India for a great role in Afghanistan.

Indeed, Trump under the auspices of his new strategy will blame Pakistan for fueling insecurity in Afghanistan and deceiving Americans – failing to hold up its end of the bargain to destroy terrorist hideouts – and will encourage Pakistan’s long rival, India, to be his new strategic partner. In the grounds of Afghan game, India will have a broader scope for action and opportunity.

From a domestic perspective, Trump’s new strategy delivers a less optimistic outlook – because he merely reflected on annihilation of the Taliban hideouts and prolongation of military presence in Afghanistan, and seldom commented on nation-building, governance and development in the tumultuous Afghanistan. The stark reality is that with Trump’s attention riveted to antiterrorism and militarization, the very quintessential governance and political and democratic foundation is segregated. In the absence of a powerful and democratically stable government, Afghanistan is much likely to become yet again a sanctuary for belligerents and international terrorism. This is an immutable and universal truth, and an idealistic and irreversible outcome that could pose threats to the long-term interests of all stakeholders in the region – the U.S. in particular. The Trump administration must wake up and refrain from its past faux pas and preferably adopt a two-pronged policy – dismantle militancy, and simultaneously empower governance and democracy with the same intensity with which it counters terrorism.

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