Contrary to the Kabul regime’s wishes, Trump’s National Security Advisor – McMaster – did not make any specific promises in assisting the regime beyond the worn out phrases of defeating the ‘Taliban through the regime forces’. The White House’s ambivalence has caused much headache in Kabul. The regime fears that should foreign troops withdraw from the country, the Mujahideen – who are already knocking at the doors of Kabul – will overrun all the major cities and enter Kabul proper.
The Ashraf Ghani regime tried many ploys to attract Trump’s attention towards Afghanistan. First they argued that various foreign terrorists groups had made a foothold in Afghanistan. Then they became more specific by arguing that Al Qaeda was reemerging in Afghanistan. When that also failed, they argued that Daesh had emerged and was making gains. In its latest tact the regime has tried to use the allure of Afghanistan’s vast natural resources to wed Trump financially to the regime.
The Trump administration should not escape from the ground realities or ignore past lessons. The resistance to foreign occupation is not limited to a ‘few terrorist groups’. They should understand that the resistance fighting them is a grass-root movement supported by a large majority of the nation. They should not adopt the regime’s language by referring to them as ‘terrorists’ or ‘proxies of foreign powers’.
The fact that the resistance has survived, morphed and thrived over the past decade and a half despite the lack of military, political or economic assistance of any foreign power should be ample evidence to support the hypothesis that the Taliban is a home-grown grass-root movement supported by a major portion of the country. Even Kabul administration’s former top officials such as Hamid Karzai admit that the Taliban are a known homegrown movement with well-established ties to the local populace.
While Obama despised the failed regime of Kabul, he was drawn to its defense due to past campaign promises of a victory in Afghanistan. His very political survival was linked to the survival of the corrupt Kabul regime. Trump on the other hand has not such strategic prerogative. He understands that the American people are fatigued by this long-drawn stalemate and see no hope of a mid-term victory. They are happy to abandon the regime to its own devices and instead focus on more acute problems closer to home. The Trump administration should embody their people’s spirit and stop supporting a ‘losing horse’. They should save their blood and tears for a more important day and a more important conflict. The longer this conflict drags the more long-term its consequences on America’s psyche. This unwinnable war is only dampening America’s appetite for military adventures and could placate the U.S. so much that we might see unwise appeasements of foes far more dangerous and potent than the Taliban.