By Grant Ferowich
US Army Gen. John Nicholson, the top ranking US commander in Afghanistan, made a promise on Thursday to “annihilate” Daesh and “crush the remnants” of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.
“We will not fail in Afghanistan,” Nicholson said. “Along with our Afghan partners, we will relentlessly pursue ISIS-K [Daesh’s Afghani affiliate] and annihilate them,” he said.
Sputnik reported in June that Daesh militants had stormed the Tora Bora tunnel complex in eastern Afghanistan, kicking out the Taliban in the process. “There was no resistance by the Taliban against [Daesh], and local tribes had no way to fight them anymore, so we just escaped,” local elder Juma Gul said.
Although Afghan security forces supported by NATO airstrikes have targeted terrorists in Tora Bora in the past, no such help was provided in June when the Afghan government was alerted to Daesh’s march to the cave hideout Osama bin Laden once called home. “I informed government forces to target [Daesh]” as they made their way to the caves in Tora Bora, Afghan MP Hazrat Ali said mid-June.
“I told them they are trying to capture Tora Bora, but they did not pay attention.”
US President Donald Trump has made clear since the beginning of his administration that Daesh needs to be eliminated. Until this week, however, it was unclear whether he would be open to sending more US troops to the war-torn country, where US forces have been present for 16 years.
“We have wasted an enormous amount of blood and treasure in Afghanistan,” Trump said via Twitter November 22, 2013, adding, “let’s get out!”. But as president, Trump’s calculus for Afghanistan clearly evolved into the more conventional policy approach.
The “new” policy promulgated by Trump during a Monday speech gives military commanders greater authority to mobilize US forces in Afghanistan. Critics say the policy direction isn’t strategically innovative at all. “It was a fairly status quo speech with more bellicose rhetoric,” Dan Feldman, former State Department special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, told Bloomberg on Tuesday, adding that Trump’s approach adopts the “hallmarks of the Obama approach.”
Nevertheless, Nicholson will likely get the wish he expressed to Congress earlier this year. “I have adequate resourcing in my counterterrorism mission,” the US Army general told the Senate Armed Services Committee in February. “In my train, advise and assist mission, however, we have a shortfall of a few thousand” troops, Nicholson explained, noting that replacement forces could come from US or NATO reserves.
During the testimony, Nicholson observed that despite 16 years of drone strikes, ground skirmishes and conventional manned aircraft sorties, the fight had reached a stalemate. This sentiment was quickly validated by Arizona Senator John McCain, who said during the hearing: “for too long our strategy in Afghanistan has been: Don’t lose.”
A modest troop surge “won’t affect the outcome there,” the Council on Foreign Relations’ Max Abrahms noted in June.
More than 100,000 US troops were deployed in Afghanistan in 2011. As of 2017, there were roughly 12,000 US military personnel stationed in the Central Asian nation, though until recently the Pentagon had concealed the true figure by stating on the record that just 8,400 troops deployed. A sense of “arrogance and heightened grandiosity” motivated efforts to obscure the actual fact, former State Department official Matthew Hoh told the Ferowich Report on Wednesday.
Nicholson made a separate call on Thursday to the Taliban, telling the group, “lay down your arms and join Afghan society.” A spokesman for the Taliban, Zabihullah Muhahid, fired back that the group is “not giving our guns to anyone and our Taliban are fighting until the last US soldier is no longer here in Afghanistan,” the Associated Press reported.
The Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts have incurred $4 to $6 trillion in costs to American taxpayers, a Harvard study says.
The Ferowich Report is an independent news and analysis information service based in Washington, D.C. Please send any and all inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article appeared at Pravda Report on August 25, 2017.