U.S Gen. Austin Scott Miller, who was officially appointed as the commander of U.S Forces-Afghanistan and of Operation Resolute Support two months ago, took over on Sunday (September 2, 2018) at a ceremony in Kabul. Miller takes over from Gen John Nicholson, who led the NATO mission for over two years.
Scott Miller is the ninth commander of Foreign Forces in the 17-year long U.S. war on Afghanistan. Miller, who previously had served as commander of the U.S Special Forces Operations Command, was nominated as the General Commander of the Foreign Forces in Afghanistan. The former generals in the Afghan war failed to defeat the anti-government armed groups and they have achieved little apart from the continuation and expansion of war during the past 17 years.
The consequences of changes in U.S. War Command during the past 17 years, the results of Trump’s War Strategy on Afghan war and the changes needed for determining the fate of U.S. war in Afghanistan are discussed here.
A Glance at Changes in War Command (2001-2018)
The ongoing Afghan War was initiated by U.S. and NATO 17 years ago when 9/11 attacks were claimed to be the main reasons behind the U.S. campaign on Afghanistan.
Initially, the war was started for the purpose of eliminating the Taliban regime and Al Qaeda bases in Afghanistan. At first, the NATO and U.S. forces were able to defeat the Taliban; however, their defeat in 2001 was temporary and they were able to reinitiate their operations in different parts of the country. Currently they are more powerful in comparison to the past few years. Insecurity has expanded to the center of the provinces and for now, a large portion of the Afghan soil is out of the control of the Afghan government.
Although, it is 17 years that the war is ongoing in Afghanistan and is further enflamed day by day, besides the parties involved, tens of thousands of civilians were also killed and wounded in the war, but neither the US nor the armed opposition groups were able to defeat their opponents from the battlefield.
During the last 17 years, the U.S and NATO were not able to defeat their armed opponents through increasing the number of soldiers and replacing commanders in leading the war and even bringing changes in the war strategies.
From 2001 to 2018, various generals like; Gen. David Mccarnan, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, Gen. David Petraeus, Gen. John Allin, Gen. Joseph Dunford, Gen. John Campbell, Gen. John Nicholson) took the command of NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan; however, none of them were able to win the Afghan war, except for escalating political and security instability in the country.
Donald Trump’s Military Strategy
The burning U.S. battlefield in Afghanistan is the legacy of former U.S. governments to the Trump Administration. Donald Trump, prior to ascending to Presidency, was strongly against the ongoing U.S. war in Afghanistan. However, shortly after becoming President, he emphasized the continuation of the Afghan War.
Trump announced his new Strategy for Afghanistan on August 22, 2017. The strategy was focused on continuation of support for the Afghan government, elimination of terrorist groups and eradication of their safe havens in Pakistan. On the day of announcing his strategy, Trump emphasized several times on victory in Afghan war and defined his victory as follow: “attack of enemies, eliminating ISIS, beating Al Qaeda, preventing Taliban from controlling Afghanistan and putting an end to attacks against the United States”.
Presently, a year has passed from the announcement of the new U.S. strategy for Afghanistan, but the situation in Afghanistan has worsened more than ever. According to a recent report by SIGAR, more than 40 percent of Afghan soil is under the control of the armed opposition of the Afghan government. Also, the Taliban have started to carry offensive attacks on provincial centers. After the collapse of Kunduz, the Taliban were able to attack the provincial centers of Farah and Ghazni provinces, to seize the absolute majority of governmental administrations, and to continue fighting in the city for several days.
ISIS, who Trump spoke about eliminating, has increased its attacks in comparison to the past. Besides governmental bodies, ISIS has carried attacks on media, mosques, educational and cultural centers. The group also took responsibility for the rocket assaults on the Afghan Presidential Palace on the day of Eid al-Adha.
Considering the status quo, after a year, the U.S. now wants to win the war through bringing changes in its command; however, looking at the last 17 years and the changes brought in the command of foreign forces deployed in Afghanistan, it is assumed the changes in the leadership of the foreign forces deployed in Afghanistan will not be effective.
Need for Change in U.S. Strategy
While a decade and half has passed since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and beginning of the bloody war here, the only achievement the U.S. could have has been the continuation of the Afghan war and the U.S. presence in the region.
Though the Trump Administration, unlike former administrations, has also tried to defeat the armed opposition through war and military pressure; these pressures are nothing but a repetition of a failed experience.
A while ago, after a year passed from the U.S. new strategy on Afghanistan, some foreign agencies had reported that the U.S. might review its war strategy toward Afghanistan. Prior to release of such reports, the New York Times had reported that President Trump has ordered his diplomats to initiate direct talks with the Taliban.
Following these initial reports, further reports on direct talks between U.S. officials and Taliban representatives in Doha, the capital of Qatar were released. Although, the meeting made Afghan people optimistic about peace; the realization of real peace depends on the continuation of these negotiations and the achievement of a positive outcome, something that is currently in a state of ambiguity.
Meanwhile, considering the U.S. war in Afghanistan, changes in command of foreign forces deployed in Afghanistan is not considered an effective solution for the Afghan war; because every military commander has to follow a predetermined strategy and for now, Scott Miller also has to follow the war strategy of the U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Gen. Scott Miller was among the first commanders entering Afghanistan during the U.S. campaign on Afghanistan in 2001. Miller was responsible for training and equipping local and police forces in Afghanistan from 2010 to 2011 and was commander of Joint Special Operations Command in 2013. Generally, Scott Miller is one of the starters of the U.S. campaign on Afghanistan and has experience in war policies and how to deal with the armed opposition of the Afghan government; but, for now, appointing such persons as the leaders of foreign forces deployed in Afghanistan will cause severity of war.
Overall, the U.S. and its allies are required to work on putting an end to their longest war in Afghanistan. Currently, what should be worked on is how to assist in the continuation of U.S.-Taliban talks leading to a palpable outcome.