Today appears to be a day for wishful thinking. This time it’s by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher in the Washington Examiner, it’s with respect to Afghanistan, and it’s on behalf of privatizing our efforts in Afghanistan:
President Trump inherited a total mess in Afghanistan. After 16 years, 2,300 lives lost, 22,000 maimed, and nearly a trillion dollars spent, America finds itself stuck in the longest war in our history with no end in sight for thousands of U.S. troops still engaged there. If changes aren’t made soon, radical Islamic terrorism will be more threatening than after or before 9/11.
Of course, one option is to pull out quickly and completely, which would soon lead to a complete jihadi victory within a year or two. As the black Taliban flag is raised over the U.S. embassy, the ultimate recruiting call for every terrorist wannabe in the world would have been sounded.
Another approach is to do what most conventional generals want: Send tens of thousands more U.S. troops back to do more fighting with the requisite costs of American blood and treasure rising together, only to maintain the status quo.
Wisely, the president so far has rejected this all-or-nothing choice, because neither approach is in the interest of our country.
As the Pentagon has been cycling generals in and out of Afghanistan, it now has become evident that no one is really in charge and no one is really held responsible. We are losing the war, but the generals all get promoted, not fired. A return to the old system of having one person in charge of policy, rules of engagement, spending by all agencies and departments, including military operations and budgets, makes the most sense.
A common sense approach is to embed highly qualified trainers with Afghan military units for sustained periods. Few Americans realize that when our troops go to Afghanistan to train indigenous soldiers, they typically spend only about eight hours a week doing so. They never go into harm’s way with them, instead staying safely holed up on U.S. bases most of the time.
This is incredibly expensive and inefficient. And the current approach does not ensure that Afghan troops get paid on time, are equipped properly, and are effectively supported on the battlefield with logistics, intelligence, ammunition, and air support. The new approach would accomplish this.
This isn’t about privatizing this conflict so that someone like Prince can make money. His suggested plan would save taxpayers some $40 billion each year. Besides that, concerns about private-sector actors making money on conflict seem to overlook those companies already benefiting from the status quo.
We don’t need a new strategy in Afghanistan. We need different objectives. Counter-insurgency is a flop. We don’t have the Sitzfleisch for it and Rep. Rohrabacher’s proposal would just underscore that. That was apparent a decade ago and if President Obama had had the wit to recognize it we would have saved most of the American lives lost.