Trump failing to find ‘the right formula to achieve victory in Afghanistan

Trump failing to find ‘the right formula to achieve victory in Afghanistan

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Nuclear-capable B-52 Stratofortress warplanes which bombed ISIS in Afghanistan. Photo: AFP

Donald Trump’s new Afghan strategy is unlikely to bear any fruit, Pakistani security analyst Rahimullah Yusufzai told Radio Sputnik. It’s hard to defeat terrorists while depending solely on airstrikes, he said. Last month Afghanistan saw an increase in US sorties with the highest monthly total of bombs in the past seven years thrown in the region.

By increasing the number of airstrikes in Afghanistan Washington and President Donald Trump are sending a message that they “mean business,” Rahimullah Yusufzai, a Pakistani journalist, political and security analyst, told Radio Sputnik.

According to the journalist, the other reason behind the reinvigorated air campaign is that the US doesn’t have enough troops on the ground to efficiently tackle the terror threat.

“I think that the increase in the number of airstrikes will lead to [growing] anti-US sentiment,” Yusufzai said, adding that the Afghan government which is endorsing the US recent military initiative might find themselves coming under pressure from the people of Afghanistan.

The Pentagon considers its air strategy highly effective while overlooking civilian casualties, the Pakistani security analyst noted. Still, there are serious problems on the ground: “Sometimes [US Air Forces] are not able to strike the target — instead of [eliminating terrorists] they target civilians.”

At the same time, Yusufzai expressed skepticism about the prospect of the US defeating the Taliban and Daesh (ISIS/ISIL) through more bombing.

It’s virtually impossible to achieve victory over terrorists depending only on airstrikes, he said, emphasizing the necessity of an all-out ground operation to expel Islamic extremists from the region. To date, about 40 percent of the territory of Afghanistan is occupied by Taliban, the security analyst noted.

As for Afghan Armed Forces, they are unable to tackle the threat posed by the Taliban and Daesh on their own.

Yusufzai recalled that in August 2017 Trump outlined his plan to cope with the 16-year-old conflict in Afghanistan.

While delivering his speech at Fort Myer military base in Arlington, the US president signaled that he was expanding the Department of Defense’s (DoD) authority in the region and boosting American troop levels on the ground.

He also said that US military commanders were ordered to focus on destroying terrorist forces and to abandon all efforts at nation-building in Afghanistan.

In September the DoD confirmed that it will send more than 3,000 additional soldiers to the region within the framework of Trump’s new strategy. However, Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Michael Andrews told Sputnik that the US won’t disclose the location of its military contingent “because we [DoD] don’t want the enemy to know our plans.”

However, Yusufzai believes Washington needs far more than just 3,000-4,000 additional US troops on the ground to defeat the terrorists.

The security analyst noted that the 16-year long US military campaign has proven inefficient, citing the fact that there have been no major offensive against terrorists on the part of NATO and US military forces in the past few years.

While Trump wants victory in Afghanistan, it will be very difficult for him to achieve it, the analyst noted. He stressed that the US is unlikely to win the hearts and minds of the people unless it launches a “nation-building” mission in the region.

“This is a very tricky situation and the right formula to achieve victory [in Afghanistan] has not been found yet,” Yusufzai concluded.

Sharp Increase in US Bombing Sorties

In comparison to August 2017, September saw a 50-percent increase in the number of bombs dropped by the United States military on Afghanistan in the fight against Taliban and Daesh militants.

The US Air Forces Central Command’s report mentioned a total of 751 bombs released by the American military in Afghanistan last month, which became the highest monthly total in the past seven years.

“This increase can be attributed to the president’s strategy to more proactively target extremist groups that threaten the stability and security of the Afghan people,” the report said.

According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, since early 2017, the US Air Force has launched a total of 2,353 airstrikes across Afghanistan, compared to 1,072 such strikes in 2016.

Speaking to Sputnik in September, Mohammad Hashem Alokozai, head of the Afghan parliament’s Homeland Security and Defense Committee, bemoaned the fact that the increased air campaign by no means improves the situation in his country.

“During the airstrikes, which are launched in accordance with Trump’s new strategy, civilians, including children, have been killed. These operations led to a situation where the authorities and people have distanced themselves from each other,” Alokozai underscored.

Following the terror attack on September 11, 2001, the US kicked off their military operation against terrorists in Afghanistan which turned out to be one of the longest wars in America’s history.

The US together with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) had been combating the Taliban and al-Qaeda terrorists up to 2014. On January 1, 2015, a new NATO-led mission dubbed Resolute Support aimed at training, advising and assisting the Afghan security forces was launched.

Right now, about 8,400 US troops alongside 5,000 more from NATO forces are deployed in Afghanistan.

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