More than 19 years ago, the U.S. launched the air war that would become the ground invasion and “liberation” of Afghanistan. More than 17 years ago, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld declared “major combat” over in that country with just 8,000 U.S. troops still stationed there. Approximately nine years after that, at the end of an Obama-era “surge,” U.S. troop levels would reach around 100,000 (not counting contingents of NATO allies, as well as private contractors, CIA agents, and those involved in the American air war in that country). Today, those troop levels are finally down to 2,500 (plus, of course, those private contractors and that air power, which actually ramped up significantly in the Trump years). That, in other words, is how Donald Trump “ended” the American war in Afghanistan. Those remaining troops are supposed to be gone by May 1, 2021, but don’t count on it in the Biden era, since our new president (who, as vice president, had indeed been against the Obama-era troop surge) is seemingly committed to keeping some kind of “counterterror” force in that country.
In any case, 19-plus years after Washington put everything it had into Afghanistan except nuclear weapons (something Donald Trump threatened to do at one point), the Taliban is the very opposite of defeated. As the PBS NewsHour described the situation in an on-screen note introducing a recent report on developments there: “The Taliban is stronger in Afghanistan than at any point since 2001, occupying one-fifth of the country with around 60,000 full-time fighters.”
Isn’t it strange when you think about it that, other than some antiwar efforts by veterans of those conflicts, Americans have been so little concerned with nearly two decades of constant military failure across the globe for which we’ve squandered trillions of taxpayer dollars? Worst of all, those “forever wars” show every sign of continuing in the Biden years and possibly beyond, as former Army officer and TomDispatch regular Danny Sjursen, author most recently of Patriotic Dissent: America in the Age of Endless War, explains so vividly (and painfully) today. Sjursen, who has in the past been all too accurate in his expectations about American war-making, offers a little crystal-ball look at what all of us might expect in the next four years from the country that just won’t stop fighting and a citizenry that seems as if it could care less. Tom
A Bidenesque Tour of America’s Regional and Global Military Adventures
Hard as it is to believe in this time of record pandemic deaths, insurrection, and an unprecedented encore impeachment, Joe Biden is now officially at the helm of the U.S. war machine. He is, in other words, the fourth president to oversee America’s unending and unsuccessful post-9/11 military campaigns. In terms of active U.S. combat, that’s only happened once before, in the Philippines, America’s second-longest (if often forgotten) overseas combat campaign.
Yet that conflict was limited to a single Pacific archipelago. Biden inherits a global war -- and burgeoning new Cold War -- spanning four continents and a military mired in active operations in dozens of countries, combat in some 14 of them, and bombing in at least seven. That sort of scope has been standard fare for American presidents for almost two decades now. Still, while this country's post-9/11 war presidents have more in common than their partisan divisions might suggest, distinctions do matter, especially at a time when the White House almost unilaterally drives foreign policy.Read More