Being Honest About US Military Strategy in Afghanistan by Micah Zenko, Council on Foreign Relations
Today, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, General John “Mic” Nicholson, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC). Though it remains the longest war in American history, the ongoing military campaign in Afghanistan received little attention during the presidential race and even less since President Trump entered office. You may recall that in December 2009, President Obama authorized the deployment of 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan, bringing the total to 97,000. The vast majority of those troops have returned home; there are 8,400 troops in country now (plus 26,000 military contractors, 9,474 of whom are U.S. citizens).
Since Obama’s Afghan surge, the security situation has deteriorated markedly. Nearly 1,700 U.S. troops were killed while serving there, the annual number of civilians casualties (the majority of whom were killed or injured by the Taliban) increased from 7,162 (in 2010) to 11,418 (in 2016), the number of jihadist groups grew (including the creation of a satellite Islamic State outpost)—all while the Taliban expanded its control and influence over more territory than at any other point since 9/11. That last metric is especially revealing, given Obama’s vow that the additional forces would “reverse the Taliban’s momentum.” This has not happened.
During today’s hearing, SASC Chairman John McCain asked Nicholson outright, “In your assessment, are we winning or losing?” Nicholson replied, “We’re in a stalemate.” …