President Donald Trump remains unconvinced that increasing the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan by several thousand will change the tide of the war, former U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Laurel Miller told Politico Magazine on Monday.
Trump reportedly sent back what was supposed to be the final version of a plan to increase the number of troops in Afghanistan at a recent National Security Council meeting. The president remains skeptical that any U.S. troop increase will change the status quo on the ground, despite strong urging from National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster.
Miller validated Trump’s concerns, saying the U.S. does not “have any fancy new tricks up their sleeve,” and adding that “there aren’t any new tools to be used to suddenly turn around the conflict in Afghanistan.”
“I don’t think there is any serious analyst of the situation in Afghanistan who believes that the war is winnable,” Miller said. “It’s possible to prevent the defeat of the Afghan government and prevent military victory by the Taliban, but this is not a war that’s going to be won.”
Trump appeared to acquiesce to McMaster’s pressure in mid-June when granting Secretary of Defense James Mattis authority to increase troops in Afghanistan by 4,000. However, Mattis has yet to exercise his new authority, and maintains that any troop increase will be part of a larger regional strategy on Afghanistan, which remains in flux at the presidential level.
The U.S. currently has approximately 9,000 troops on the ground in Afghanistan, largely focused on a train, advise and assist mission with the Afghan National Security Forces. The Afghan National Security Forces have largely failed to rise to the challenge of the Taliban insurgent movement, despite tens of billions of dollars in U.S. assistance and a 17-year NATO presence. Afghan civilian casualties are also at a 16-year high in the war.
The Taliban now controls more territory than at any time since the U.S. invasion in 2001, and maintains control over approximately one-third of the civilian population. The U.S. backed Afghan government remains paralyzed by corruption and political infighting, further hindering the war effort and plummeting morale among Afghan troops.
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