Trump’s Afghanistan Strategy Isn’t to Win. It’s to Avoid Losing. By David Ignatius - Washington Post
Will President Trump’s new Afghanistan strategy alter the dynamics of America’s longest and most frustrating war? Do commanders really have any better chance of succeeding now than when this conflict began 16 years ago?
I put those questions by phone Tuesday to Gen. John “Mick” Nicholson Jr., who for more than 18 months has commanded U.S. forces in Kabul. This is his fourth tour in Afghanistan and his sixth year of service there. He probably knows as much about this difficult and costly war as any American in uniform.
Nicholson answered by describing what he has learned about Afghanistan since we first met 10 years ago in Jalalabad, when he was a colonel commanding a brigade of the 10th Mountain Division. Those were heady, optimistic days when Nicholson would take visitors to a provincial “loya jirga” tribal council, where the turbaned leaders professed support for the U.S. mission; when U.S. development teams were building roads and schools, confident that stability would follow economic development.
It didn’t happen that way, and Nicholson now cites two illusions of that period that he says undermined the war effort. The first was that U.S. commanders didn’t realize just how crucial external support from Pakistan was in allowing an unpopular Taliban insurgency to survive. The second was that commanders didn’t understand how corruption was rotting the Afghan security structure the United States was trying to build.
Both problems are addressed, at least modestly, by Trump’s strategy…