Trump sinking America deeper into Afghan quagmire

President Trump is planning to send up to 5,000 additional American soldiers into Afghanistan to complement the 10,000 already there.  Let's look at some numbers first:

1) $117 billion.  That's the amount of money we've spent on "development" projects in Afghanistan, much of which has been siphoned off for waste and corruption.

2) $50 billion.  That's how much money has been spent on military operations in Afghanistan alone in the past year.

3) A trillion dollars.  That's estimated to be the total cost of the war so far.

4) 2,400.  That's the number of Americans killed in Afghanistan in combat.  Many times more were wounded.

5) 50%.  That's the portion of the country the Taliban control, after all of our efforts above.

And what have we gotten for all this effort?  After spending billions on rebuilding Afghanistan, the locals hate us.  They despise our culture and our freedoms.  The government steals as much of our aid money as it can.

After 16 years, the army still cannot defend itself.  The leaders of the army are corrupt and siphon off military aid; the soldiers run away and hide.

The Taliban control nearly half the country.  How have they managed to do that with spending less than 1% of what we have on the conflict?  The answer is simple: the Afghan people love the Taliban.  They love radical Islamic fundamentalism.  They love tribalism.  That's why they fight for the Taliban and why they won't fight for our vision of a liberal, pluralistic, unified Afghanistan.

Read from this insider who has been to Afghanistan and seen firsthand:

[A] team of soldiers and I were buttoned up inside the massive armored gun-trucks, juddering down rutted tracks as Pashtun men beside the road scowled and glared at us. The Afghans clearly weren't valuing the American efforts. The navigator suddenly pointed – "IEDs."… The tribesmen, yet un-subdued, were just waiting for their time.

The insurgents now control about half of the country. Taliban shadow governments operate in virtually every province, and control several of them[.] ...

Contorted by the enormous illegal opium industry, the Afghan government ranks among the world's most corrupt; 9th on the Fragile States Index that assesses states' vulnerability to conflict or collapse. The World Justice Project's 2016 Rule of Law Index ranked Afghanistan 111 out of 113 countries assessed. The poorly commanded and deeply infiltrated Afghan security forces are losing the war.

And yet the Trump administration wants to send a few thousand more troops in.  It's a failed effort, and from past history, it is clear it will make no difference.  All that will happen is that more American money will be spent, and more Americans will die.

A better alternative: pull out.  Let the Taliban take over the country.

1) If they operate terrorist training bases, bomb them.

2) If they continue to train terrorists, give weapons to opposing tribesmen, as we did after 9/11, but don't send U.S. soldiers in to fight, and don't give massive amounts of aid to prop up a "national" government.

3) Defoliate the poppy fields, something the Afghan government we are propping up refuses to let us do.  This will dry up a much needed source of funding for terrorism.

This is a low-cost solution that will use a big enough stick to give the Taliban second thoughts about funding terrorism.  At the same time, it will save American lives and American money.

It is disappointing that President Trump is continuing down the same old path as his predecessors.  More Americans will die, and more money will be wasted, for nothing.

Ed Straker is the senior writer at

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