America's Second Lost War: Afghanistan
Similarities in History
America should have learned a lesson from the Soviets: Afghanistan cannot be conquered as a whole due to the Taliban and other bad actor groups. The Soviets tried for eight years and then threw in the towel and left. When America took up the baton years later with noble democratic notions, they thought they could succeed.
But the strategy was not that different than in America's first lost war in Vietnam, where 58,000 lives were lost and nothing to show for it. Then, it was against the danger of communism, in Afghanistan, the name changed to terrorists. Trying to win the hearts and minds of backward people and cultures is near impossible. America should have learned the lesson in Vietnam, but it didn't.
Societies that do not learn the lessons from history are bound to repeat them. For the past 18 years, America has had its successes and failures in Afghanistan against a wily, primitive, foe, that learns quickly. Like in the waning days of Vietnam, where America created a South Vietnamese Army to defend itself, their is the Afghanistan army. In both cases, they were unreliable and useless for the most part when fighting their enemy. After the US left Vietnam, under the agreement with the North, a year went by where their armies received arms from China and Russia. Aid to South Vietnam stopped. They were on their own. It was just a matter of time until the South utterly collapsed in combat and routed without American support. The South fell and turned communist. America had taken the Vietnam baton from France in the fifties. America did not learn from the French either. There were plenty of warnings before America got involved in Vietnam. All were ignored. One of the conditions for peace in Vietnam was that all American forces had to be withdrawn and by 1974, much of it happened. South Vietnam was betrayed in the end so America could save face in a lost cause.
In the 1950's, France tried in vain to suppress and convert cultures of those in North Africa, such as in Libya, Tunisia, Morocco. The French had thousands of troops in those places trying to create a democratic culture a la the French way of life. During most of that decade, it was a hit and run war all in vain. In the end, the French gave up.
History is repeating even when we probably know the outcome will be in vain. After 18 years of war, America is facing the reality that this endless war must end somehow. As with Vietnam, America wants to exit proudly and not as a loser again. This will be hard to avoid.
President Trump wants to end it on his watch because of the 2020 election. We know that this egotistical man might do something not in the best interest of America (as he has done in the past). Trump has clearly stated that American troops will leave the country with or without a deal with the Taliban. He is willing to negotiate with them in Doha or Camp David in a summit like setting. If you are the Taliban, like the North Vietnamese, all they need to do is wait and continue their attacks in provinces where there is little opposition. Since Trump has stated the final outcome is that America is leaving, what incentive is there for the Taliban to negotiate? Is Trump planning to offer millions of dollars as part of a deal?
The Taliban are using the North Vietnamese playbook by demanding Americans first leave with a token 5600 men. What does America get? Nada. The Taliban have the leverage: the coming 2020 election, Trump's declaration in leaving, controlling many provinces away from Kabul, and time- the long 18 years and American public sentiment in bringing them home. It's another Vietnam ending that is coming.
If America leaves a token force in the Kabul area and other areas, all that is going to happen is the Taliban will attack them until they are pulled out. Like Saigon, Kabul and its environs will be the "last man standing" where democracy and culture still resembles the West. As more provinces are controlled by the Taliban, more pressure will be on the Kabul government to appease their enemy by removing social reforms. Either the government will become more controlled by the Taliban and demand the American troops leave or they will retake the city via their military.
President Trump has a no win situation. There is no exit that is honorable for the USA, in the sense that an enemy was conquered. The Taliban cannot be trusted to even hold up any agreements made, at least for very long.
The end is coming. Perhaps, Trump should just kick this can down the road, just in case he loses.