The Trump Doctrine in Afghanistan

| August 22, 2017 | 84 Comments

In case you missed it last night, here’s the video of the President’s 25 minute speech at Fort Myers, Virginia in which he expressed his plan for finishing the war in Afghanistan;

If you’d prefer, you can read the speech here at White

It can be summed up in this quote from Fox News;

“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…Conditions on the ground, not arbitrary timetables, will guide our strategy from now on,” he said, vowing, “America’s enemies will never know our plans.”

Fox says that last week the Taliban helpfully sent a letter to the President warning against sending more troops, that more troops will only delay their eventual victory. Apparently, Trump ignored the enemies’ advice and he signed off on the Pentagon’s plan to send 4,000 more troops to the fray.

Of course, the Taliban’s main spokesman, Nancy Pelosi slept through the speech;

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said, “Tonight, the President said he knew what he was getting into and had a plan to go forward. Clearly, he did not. The President’s announcement is low on details but raises serious questions.”

Well, if he intends to win, if he intends to turn Taliban members into smoking holes in the ground, that’s head and shoulders above anything I’ve heard in the past eight years. The President said he won’t repeat the mistakes of Iraq, and that’s better than any policy Obama expressed – the Obama Doctrine was “Withdrawal at any cost”.

From CNN, Democrats clearly haven’t learned from their mistakes;

Democrats argued Trump was proposing an open-ended commitment with no exit strategy or ceiling on US troops there.

The same old drumbeat, the same old tired shit.

Category: Terror War

Comments (84)

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  1. AW1Ed says:

    I may be mistaken, Jonn, but I don’t think Trump mentioned a specific number of additional troops- the 4000 number was repeated by the talking heads. Otherwise, what a breath of fresh air-
    1) event, not schedule driven
    2) no micromanaging from the White House; let the Generals and troops make the tactical decisions
    3) changes to the idiotic ROE
    4) heat on Pakistan
    5) most of all, in it to win it!

    I’m sure I missed a couple, but I think the adults are in charge and the C-in-C just slipped the leash.

  2. Veritas Omnia Vincit says:

    Except he ran on getting out of a stupid, endless war that has no metric for winning. Just another lying sack of shit politician who can’t keep a promise he made during the campaign season.

    What do we get when we win? How do we know we’ve won? Who’s going to surrender over there?

    You all know the answers to this shit. None of those answers are very good, because they were never going to be very good. We will have to stay there for 50-70 years to change that culture into anything resembling stability. More likely have to stay over a 100 years if we intend to alter that culture into anything resembling the 21st century and equal rights for all their people.

    I’m not certain that’s worth another American’s life….I’d be very comfortable being proven wrong(be happy to be wrong to be honest), but I see very little positives coming out of this.

    • Jonn Lilyea says:

      It’s been my experience that the easy answer is always the wrong answer. The right thing to do is always the hard thing to do.

    • 26Limabeans says:

      “How do we know we’ve won?”

      When the last customer service call center in Pakistan goes dark and Cannon starts making towels here again.

    • Stacy0311 says:

      We don’t need to change their culture. Only their behavior.

      • Yef says:

        This is a very interesting point.

        I would add that behavior shapes culture.

        • Graybeard says:

          Religion shapes culture.
          Culture shapes behavior.

        • Stacy0311 says:

          Change their behavior to the point where they understand that if they fuck with us, we will drop the hammer of the gods on their asses.
          Want to screw goats and little boys? Fine, have at it. Want to fly planes into buildings, drive cars into crowds? We will turn your village, province, country, region into a wasteland and salt the ruins. Push us too far and your language/culture/religion will be tossed in the burn pit of history, known and studied only by archeologists. Yeah it’s a little “Crusader”ish, but that’s life in the big leagues.

          • 11B-Mailclerk says:

            “When this war is finished, Japanese will be spoken only in Hell.”

            One might not actually go to that extreme, but the enemy should be greatly concerned about such an outcome.

    • Yef says:

      Well, how long have there been American troops in Germany, Japan, Italy, and Korea?

      We only have three choices:

      1) Withdraw, like Obama did in Iraq 2012 and let ISIS fill the power vacuum.

      2) Stay and support the local weak government, which means the deep game and basically staying forever in one form or another with the implied cost in blood and treasure.

      3) Bomb everything over there and set the enemy so far back it would take a long time for them to become combat effective again. Repeat the moment the enemy dares to hold ground again.

      Number 1 ends up in ISIS becoming the Caliphate and North Vietnam conquering the South. Number 2 has a high cost, and number 3 has a high political cost both internally and externally.

      Those are our choices.

      If you see a 4th choice please let me know.

      • Martinjmpr says:

        Well, how long have there been American troops in Germany, Japan, Italy, and Korea?

        It’s not the having-troops-there that’s a problem, it’s the having-troops-coming-home-in-body-bags that’s the problem.

        Mr. and Mrs. John Q. America don’t really care how many soldiers we have sitting in Germany or Korea since the actual fighting there ceased decades ago.

        But every week Americans are killed fighting in Afghanistan and the American people are going to get sick and tired of that sooner rather than later. Furthermore, the enemy KNOWS this and that’s precisely why they’re going to target their attacks to try and kill as many Americans as possible and to frustrate whatever benchmarks or goals we set as conditions for withdrawal.

        As with Vietnam, the real “war” isn’t taking place in Afghanistan, it’s taking place in the hearts and minds of the American people.

        Killing 5 or 10 Taliban or ISIS fighters achieves nothing if they are simply replaced by 5 or 10 more. And killing 50 or 100 Taliban or Isis at the cost of 1 American Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine is a net loss for us because it’s easier (and less expensive) for them to replace the 50 or 100 than it is for us to replace the 1.

        Sad to say but I see this venture as ending for us the same way it did for the Soviets: Declare victory and scram, and let the country fall apart afterwards.

        • Ex-PH2 says:

          They (ISIS/Daesh) want death, right? Okay, give them what they want. Just let them know that we have more where that one came from.

          • Martinjmpr says:

            Well, Ivy Mike weighed 65 tons and had to be constructed on-site. It was a “wet bomb” that used liquid deuterium for the fusion reaction and had a gigantic refrigeration plant next to the device (all of which of course was vaporized in the explosion.)

            A better choice would be Castle Bravo, the largest nuclear weapon the US ever exploded, and unlike Ivy Mike, it was a deployable weapon:


            • Ex-PH2 says:

              I know, I know. But the point you missed is that the splodey dopes need to be told that we have the biggest guns EVER, and we’re willing to use them.

              You’d think the MOAB that was dumped on them a few weeks ago might have sent that message to them. Either they think it was a one-off, or they have short term memory loss.

              A collection of MRVs would also send a clear message.

      • timactual says:

        If American troops had been fighting in Germany, Japan, etc. for all those years you might have had a point.

        I’ll go with choice one(1).


      I agree.

      I see no logical reason for American troops to be in Afghanistan or Pakistan.

      President Trump is breaking a campaign promise.

      UNLESS – – – ,

      There’s some sort of secret strategic justification for American troops being in Afghanistan that the American public isn’t being told about – – – ?

      But, then, if that’s the case, then WHY isn’t the American public being told about it?

      All things considered, based on the information currently available, those troops should be brought back to the United States (and stationed on the Mexican Border?).

  3. Sapper3307 says:

    1. More hammers
    2. More arms Swinging the hammers.

  4. GDContractor says:

    Tom Kratman,in his Careers series, lays out the only logical method of defeating this type of enemy… and although logical, it is brutal. I’m not sure the CinC can, or is willing to, implement a truly winning strategy. My fear is that we will be one more empire notch in Afghanistan’s belt. We can only fire $80K hellfire missles to take out clusters of erstwhile goatherds with $13 AK’s for a finite amount of time. Time is on there side.

    • GDContractor says:

      God damn it. CARRERA series. Fukking phone.

    • Martinjmpr says:

      Uh, yeah, I’ve read a couple of Kratman’s books.

      Marketed as “sci-fi”, I would classify them more as “Muslim-hating murder porn.”

      That’s not to say they aren’t entertaining, but as a road map to victory, not so much.

      • 11B-mailclerk says:

        I know the man. I believe you have misread him.

        Note the prominent place Muslims play in the Legion organization, as allies and comrades. Non-lunatic ones, certainly. They exist.

        The points he makes:
        1) When facing a ruthless enemy, one will likely have to be ruthless right back..
        2) When one makes war, one tends to wind up resembling the enemy, and vice versa.

        Carerra is opposing an absolutely monsterous evil, and as Nietzsche warns, he gazes long into the abyss and it gazes right back.

        Did you note that most of the really nasty stuff said was directed at folks -not- on the side of the Salafists?

        • GDContractor says:

          I agree. To dismiss it as Muslim hating war porn, is to misread it.

          The brutality has logical underpinnings; unlike the current way we wage war, which seems to be based on “feelings”.

  5. Ex-PH2 says:

    Well…. bodaprez said he’d get us out of some place – Iraq, wasn’t it? – and the last vehicles crossed the border sometime in the 2000s, and he whoopee’d over it… but we’re still there.
    It wasn’t over then. It won’t be over until ISIS/Daesh is gone. How can we be sure they are all gone… ever?
    The British East India Company, aka John Company, was chartered by Elizabeth I to block Dutch control of the spice trade in the East Indies. British troops went along to represent the British government. The British Raj ended after WWII when the Viceroy returned governing India to the Indians themselves. Most of the British Indian Army, established after the 1857 rebellion, was made up of local people recruited from various Indian states.

    That seemed to work for many, many years. But if nothing else, the Indians were and are more civilized than those people to the east of them.

    So what’s the answer? Squelch the locals for 250 years, or something? I don’t know any more. They are uncivilized. The hill tribes have their own rules and don’t give a crap what we want them to do. If the Soviets had to finally give up and go home, why are we still there? Just asking out of curiosity.

    This has gone on longer than Vietnam (1965-1975) did. I just want to see something decisive happen, that’s all, even if it means dropping an Ivy Mike on those bastards and telling them we have more just like that one.

    • Ex-PH2 says:

      Or instead of Ivy Mike, which has an immediate blast radius of about 2 miles, not including fallout and unimpaired blast waves radiating out from ground zero to abut 35 miles, how about a bunch of MRV nuke warheads? Just pepper the place with them.
      (If you can’t tell I’m fed up with the mess created by a previous administration, you’re asleep at the wheel of your car.)

      Let’s do remember that Fatty Kin da T’ird claimed that he detonated an H-bomb in June, which created a 5.1 seismic event and he’s working on warhead-sized nukes. He’s squawking again, because Trump isn’t paying enough attention to him.

  6. 26Limabeans says:

    If we leave the Taliban will continue to tear down statues and try to erase history like the alt left here.
    The bastards are already inside the wire so why not use our resources to fight them here.
    Posse Comitatus not withstanding of course. /s

  7. Redacted1775 says:

    It’s about time we had a Commander in Chief allow the JCS to do their jobs and fight to WIN. No more of this “ending” bullshit.

  8. Martinjmpr says:

    I’m trying to figure out how this ‘bold new strategy’ is different from the old strategy of just kicking the can down the street for the next guy to deal with.

    I’m also don’t see that there’s much advantage in basing withdrawal on “goals” vs a time table. After all, if the enemy knows or can guess what the “benchmarks” are, they can work to frustrate them and then we’re right back to where we are now: An impatient public frustrated with what seems to be an endless military campaign with no clear way out.

    If the goal is a “stable and democratic Afghanistan” that seems to be exactly the kind of “nation building” that Trump swore we WOULDN’T be doing anymore. It also seems like something that is not really achievable in any kind of realistic time frame.

    I know folks here have been critical of Obamas withdrawal timetables from both Iraq and Afghanistan but the reality of this type of war is that there is always a timetable, one that is set by the American people who are going to start asking what their sons and daughters are dying for.

    This is going to be further exacerbated by the anti-war left factions just as it was during Vietanm. During the Obama years, the anti-war left was a fringe element because Afghanistan was “Obama’s war” and the mainstream elements on the left were loathe to criticize their political god.

    But with Trump in the white house and both houses of Congress in Republican control, all restraints will be unleashed and the mainstream democrats are going to merge with the anti war left and keep pushing the “bring them home” theme endlessly (although with no draft, the anti-war movement will never be as strong as it was during Vietnam.)

    Seems to me Trump is now in the position that LBJ was in circa 1965, and we all know how that turned out.

    • Veritas Omnia Vincit says:

      Meet the new boss, same as the old boss…

      So far no repeal of the ACA, increasing troop levels in Afghanistan, and now I understand they will raise the debt ceiling….

      Can someone explain when the whole drain the swamp shit is supposed to start?

    • timactual says:

      Too true. After consulting with his generals, Trump has decided “More of the same, only better!”.
      Trump is violating the first rule of holes. He seems to think using a better shovel will get us out of it.

      Afghanistan is “governed” by a corrupt, ineffective gov’t. whose officials kidnap and rape the sons of its citizens. We have been trying to change that, because for one thing it is hard to get men to fight and die for that. After consulting with his generals Trump has decided we should stop trying to reform the Afghan government, while expecting Afghans to be even more willing to fight and die for it.

  9. Yef says:

    But, I thought Climate Change was a bigger threat than terrorism?

  10. Martinjmpr says:

    Watching the speech last night it occurred to me that an 18 year old enlisting in the military today has never known a time when we were not at war in Afghanistan.

    I’m just trying to wrap my head around that. It would be as if the Vietnam war was still going on in 1980 when I joined the Army.

  11. HMCS(FMF) ret says:

    I saw this quote on another blog… thought is was appropriate for this thread…

    “It will be very difficult for Mr. Trump to improve upon the successes of the great General Obama.”

  12. Martinjmpr says:

    And since the specter of Vietnam has been raised, I have to say that after speaking to a few Vietnam veterans (including my father who served 1 long tour and 3 short ones between 1966 and 1972) I really feel like I got ripped off in the terms of wars.

    Vietnam guys got pallets full of beer flown into firebases and gorgeous Vietnamese ladies in the ville, while we got General Order No. 1 and Burquas.

    What the hell? 🙁

    • Graybeard says:

      Ah, the good ol’ days.

    • Ex-PH2 says:

      Different time, different war, different planet.

    • 26Limabeans says:

      “Vietnam guys got pallets full of beer flown into firebases and gorgeous Vietnamese ladies in the ville”

      The beer sat on a runway in the hot sun for
      weeks before it got to anybody outside an air base. The labels were unreadable after that baking.
      The women chewed betel nut and stunk like fish sauce.
      Officer types may dispute the later.

      • timactual says:

        “The women chewed betel nut and stunk like fish sauce.”

        They couldn’t have smelled any worse than we did after a month or so without bathing or a change of clothes.

        “The beer sat on a runway…”

        …while the REMFs stole a good portion of it and sold it to the Vietnamese, who in turn sold it to us (at a slight markup).

        • Poetrooper says:

          It wasn’t the fish sauce as much as it was the dried squid they snacked on like potato chips. Man that shit could give an otherwise lovely young lady some killer halitosis. As for betel nut, that was mostly the older women’s habit although some younger ones did partake. The truth is, the Vietnamese produced some really beautiful young women with that colonial infusion of French blood. Our Korean vets said they were much more attractive than the women of that country.

          As for the beer, timeactual is correct regarding American beer but most of what was sold in town was Vietnamese: Tiger Piss, Biere 33, Ba Me Ba and Biere La Rue all of which tasted strongly of the formaldehyde used in the Vietnamese brewing process. The bar owners quickly learned that the enterprises with the coldest beer and the best looking B-girls were going to make the most money.

          As for hygiene, we never went into the towns for biere and broads without shaving and bathing first. Even with B-Girls, if you wanted to get laid, you had to present well. Of course all that went to hell out in the boonies where the mama-sans would bring young girls bearing baskets of warm Tiger Piss into the bushes, following us on operations. There hygiene wasn’t much of a concern.

          There was no shortage of booze or broads anywhere I traveled in Vietnam, so yes, it’s a very different war for those fighting in the Middle East.

    • timactual says:

      “Vietnam guys got pallets full of beer…”

      So that’s what went on back in the rear! I’ve always wondered.

  13. Commissar says:

    There is literally nothing new in his strategy.

    1. Increase in troops; done before. Obama doubled troop levels in Afghanistan in his first term from 25,000 to 50,000. Then doubled them again to peak at 100,000.

    Currently there are less than 9000. Even if Trump doubles them it still will only be a fraction of the numbers during Obama’s first term. It didn’t work.

    2. No more nation building. Obama came to reject nation building toward then end of his first term. Which is why troop levels dropped precipitously in Obama’s second term. This was a well publicized and debated diversion from the Petraeus strategy. There was even a book about the political divide that occurred between the “nation building” strategy the Pentagon requested (advocated by Patreaus) and the counter-terrorist strategy of the Obama white house (advocated by Biden). The right vilified Obama over this change in strategy. Including many on this board.

    3. No more publicizing troop levels. Really a nonsense political perception over substance component of the “strategy”. First, it will almost be impossible for him to do this. Our troop numbers are part of too many data points and too many public records with respect to funding and Pentagon resource requests to congress.

    Additionally, it has almost no effect on the war effort. The Taliban and other hostile groups in Afghanistan have a clear and accurate understanding of US troop levels in their area and the country at large.

    4. No more timelines. This is somewhat of a change. But really a change in the information operations aspect of the war. There is a debate about timelines. On one side the notion is that the military and the war effort is more effective if they are operating on clear timelines with clear benchmarks as near term objectives. The idea is that if the commander in chief figures out want he want to see happens and makes it clear when he want to see it happen the military will be more effective at achieving that objective.

    The other camp says that timelines serve the insurgents because it essentially hands them a strategy of delay. They can simply wait out our timelines. The reality is a key aspect of an insurgency is that time is on their side. They are going to try to wait us out even if there are no clear timelines.

    Second, the army will still operate on annual timelines and benchmarks with clear and articulable objectives and metrics to measure them. Partly because that is how the military operates. If the commander in chief does not create a overall timelines then commanders will.

    It is built into the incentive system in the US Army. Officers, including commanders, have annual performance evaluation reports. These require clear and articulable statements of performance and achievement supportable by specific information. For a commander to provide those outcomes to his rater to support his OER he is going to come up with a specific set of objectives and a timeline to achieve them.

    The difference is that without a over arching timeline the timelines of the individual commanders will not be nested in supporting a larger strategy. Maybe that is a good thing. But the military has institutional resistance to operating this way so the senior commander responsible for the war in Afghanistan at any given time will almost certainly provide his commanders a list of objectives and a timeline to achieve them.

    They just will not be nested with a larger strategy year over year as the senior commander changes.

    5. Change in ROE. This may reflect the most substantive change Trump announced. I do not know the current ROE in Afghanistan. We keep that information classified. Given the lower troop numbers and the fact that a greater proportion of the remaining troops are special operations troops I am sure the ROE is far less restrictive than it was when I was there.

    We will still be limited by the Geneva Convention. The president cannot order the military to commit war crimes, even ones based on mythical historical anecdotes.

    We had a very unrestricted ROE at the beginning of the war in Afghanistan (and Iraq). It backfired in Iraq from the moment the initial invasion ended. In Afghanistan it began to be an issue as well.

    The RoE is one of the many means for the ISAF commander to shape soldiers interactions with the local population to meet his intent.

    Having an unrestrictive ROE in an insurgency can work if you have well trained, very professional, experienced, and disciplined troops. Which we largely have in Afghanistan, particularly when our troop levels are as low as they are.

    Though special operations forces usually already operated under a different ROE than the rest of the ISAF forces.

    6. “In it to win it”. This is nonsense political rhetoric. The notion that the US military is not in something to win unless someone actually tells them to be “in it to win it” is ridiculous.

  14. H1 says:

    The place has been won militarily a couple times. The failure is establishing a working government.

    • A Proud Infidel®™ says:

      Having been there myself, I’m convinced that some types of people just CANNOT be made civilized.

      • SFC D says:

        They have no desire to be “civilized”, as we know it. They have no desire to have a working government. They’re tribal, they prefer to think and act locally. Democracy doesn’t work for them.

    • Commissar says:

      I was the governance officer for a regional command in Afghanistan. The problem is there is literally no societal memory of a functional government and the type of people that would best function in government (educated and literate) mostly escaped the country.

      Those that stayed had to choose a side. And this partisanship and tribalism makes it difficult to facilitate a government that is perceived by the population to be legitimate in many areas.

      • timactual says:

        ” …literally no societal memory of a functional government…”

        Sounds like the Promised Land for libertarians. Perhaps we need to send some of them over there to learn.

  15. Martinjmpr says:

    It really sounds as if Trump bought into the whole “noble lost cause” myth of Vietnam, i.e. that the reason we “lost” Vietnam was because “the politicians tied the hands of our military.”

    An accurate reading of history, though, shows that we never would have “won” in Vietnam without invading and garrisoning the North – options that were never on the table for any administration (and even then it would have been a hollow victory since we would simply have replaced the French as the colonial power that the VC/Viet Minh/NVA were fighting against.)

    In the words of the character played by James Caan in the movie “Gardens of Stone”, in Vietnam there was “nothing to win and no way to win it.”

    It seems we’ve gotten to the same point in Afghanistan – nothing to win and no way to win it.

    Afghanistan, at this point, is only valuable to us as a staging base for operations against the various muslim extremist groups. I’d vote for pulling out non-essential personnel, reducing our footprint to a bare minimum and letting the Afghan government – whatever they decide they want that to be – figure the rest of it out.

  16. Martinjmpr says:

    Life imitates the Duffel Blog?

    “‘We’re Making Real Progress’ Say Last 17 Commanders in Afghanistan”

  17. old98z says:

    President Trump says he does not intend to change the Afghanistan culture. The culture probably won’t change anytime soon anyway.
    The is a population that allowed a crowd to beat a woman to death and mutilate the body – only to hear two days later she never did burn a Quran. Google (NSFW) the name “Farkhunda”. Watch the video for a sample of what we are fighting to support.
    It’s a culture where males can engage in child rape and authorities turn a blind eye. BONZAIboy rape thursdays. Our embeds should not have to deal with this or be told disregard child rape, its for Afghans to deal with.

    Whatever the way forward becomes, we should get our troops out and let the Afghans deal with their country with the help of Islam./s

    There is no winning there in a conventional sense without being more bloodthirsty in action and ruthless in deed than our citizens will support.

    I’m good with flattening a terrorist camp when it become active and our money is better spent on finding ways to detect them.

  18. Burma Bob says:

    More of the same shit. The reason why Trump is delegating authority downwards is more about distancing himself from potential failure than giving local commanders autonomy.

    Someone has pointed out that in Trump’s speech there was a veiled reference to taking Afghanistan’s natural resources “to defray costs”. He’s mentioned this in the past, as if it would be a simple matter of sending in mining equipment and trucks. I work in an area of Kachin State that is sitting on considerable mineral riches, but a long-standing war between the Burmese and Kachins have kept it out of reach.

    But no mining company’s risk managers will think of going in to do anything unless the area where prospecting, exploration, and extraction is absolutely secure. All mining companies need to go to investors for money. None I know of would back a mining company to go into Afghanistan in its current state. (Yes, there are Chinese companies in, but in a decidedly more secure area, and they have no qualms [or FCPA laws] that prevent them from paying off local insurgents to leave them alone).

    -Then there is the matter of Afghan mining law, and how concessions are parceled out. Usually these concessions are subject to a sealed bid. The bidding process is why Chinese companies are in places where we are not; they bid more than other companies. They have all of the better oil concessions in Iraq, because the Iraqi government went for the best deal.

    Reference has been made to Erik Prince and his people going in, or some arrangement like the East India Company. I’d be all for it if no taxpayer money was part of the deal; let Prince and his people work out their own deals with the Afghan government and insurgents, let them be self-supporting, -Like the East Indian Company, which paid dividends to its shareholders and heavy taxes (a lot more than 15%) to the Crown.

    But as to overall pacification, nope. The British, Russians, and now the Americans have just taken turns learning the hard lessons about a population that won’t govern themselves according to how we think they should, and they have no intention of letting us do it for them.

  19. Joe says:

    “The Trump Doctrine”? That’s a good one – Trump reacts, knee-jerk style, to the news from one day to the next, but we all know Trump is too clueless to have anything remotely resembling a “doctrine”.

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