Here Are the Hard Numbers on the War in Afghanistan Trump Left Out of His Speech

by Mike LudwigTruthout | Report –

Last night, President Trump was expected to announce that he would be sending several thousand more troops to Afghanistan, where the United States has been at war for 16 years and violence and corruption have become a way of life. Instead, he outlined a vague strategy meant to appease both a public weary of endless war and the military generals who are now among his top advisors.

In his address to the nation from Fort Myer, Trump did not say how many more troops he would send to Afghanistan, or how much more money he is willing to spend on the war. He only said that restrictions on wartime spending would be lifted, and that military commanders would have the freedom to launch attacks without waiting for approval from Washington.

Trump also refused to give a timetable for withdrawing American forces, saying only that the enemy would not be privy to when and where the US would attack. He said the “nation-building” effort in Afghanistan is over, and the US would no longer seek to forge democracies in foreign lands “in our own image.”

Trump did mention that the Taliban could have a place in a functioning Afghan democracy, a sign that the White House might now be willing to negotiate with anti-government forces after years of bloody warfare, but it’s not clear what such negotiations would look like.

The president’s announcement was a disappointment for those who hoped Trump would deescalate the wars in the Middle East that he criticized as a candidate — and for the millions of Americans who opposed invading Iraq and Afghanistan in the first place. Trump’s speech also raises serious concerns about transparency and accountability as the president hands over the reins of war to military commanders, who have long used endless conflicts in the Middle East to ensure a steady stream of funding into their budgets.

Matthew Hoh, a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy who resigned from his US State Department post in Afghanistan in 2009 in protest of President Obama’s troop surge, said the US remains in Afghanistan so the military can continue asking Congress for multi-billion dollar budgets while funneling cash to powerful private contractors.

“There’s no real grand design or purpose other than the forward momentum of the military industrial complex,” Hoh told Truthout.

However, Hoh said that much of the military establishment is fed up with the long process of “nation building,” and so is coalescing around Trump’s calls for “principled realism” and “strategically applied force” — in other words, a strategy in which those on the fringes of the empire are simply punished when they create headaches for US leaders.

“And the way to do that is just bomb them or send in the commandos when they get out of line and punish them,” Hoh said. “If a village acts up, then burn the village to the ground.”

Meanwhile, civilian casualties reached an all-time high in 2016 as Taliban fighters and other rebels fought bloody battles with US-trained Afghan security forces, according to the United Nations. Insurgents are currently making major gains, and the high rates of civilian casualties have remained steady as the Taliban deploys homemade bombs and teams with ISIS fighters to launch attacks on members of pro-government militias in their home villages.

It’s impossible to put a price tag on the countless lives that have been destroyed by the war in Afghanistan and other US wars and occupations in the Middle East, especially when we consider consequences such as the rise of ISIS. However, it’s important to get some sense of the toll the war is taken, in order to make decisions about its future. Trump’s “strategy” comes with plenty of assurances but no hard numbers, so Truthout has compiled the latest available data to bring you a snapshot of what military operations in Afghanistan cost the nation, its allies and Afghan communities:



Reprinted with permission from Truthout