The FP: Foreign Policy feed that I receive had two items that grabbed my attention this morning. The first involves the war in Afghanistan. In short, there’s no end in sight. Unlike in the Vietnam War, no one is seeing any lights at the end of tunnels. Nevertheless, U.S. and NATO leaders vow to keep supporting Afghan forces as they continue to lose territory to a resurgent Taliban that had basically given up in 2001.
Here’s the latest from FP (co-authored by Paul McLeary with Adam Rawnsley):
NATO’s not done in Afghanistan. It looks like the United States and NATO are going to stick it out in Afghanistan for at least a few more years, as the Afghan army continues to battle a resurgent Taliban with no end in sight. Following a NATO meeting in Brussels this week, British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon told reporters that U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter “told us the troop numbers and the dispositions are being looked at again,” as President Barack Obama weighs whether to draw the U.S. presence in Afghanistan down from 9,800 to 5,000 by the end of this year. NATO says it’s in, at least through the end of next year. Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the allies are abandoning their plans to pull back to Kabul by the end of this year, and “will have what we call a flexible regional approach, meaning that we will continue to be of course in Kabul but also out in the different regions.”
That’s significant. So are comments by an anonymous NATO diplomat who told the AP that the alliance will most likely come up with the $5 billion needed to fund the current number of Afghan security forces through 2020. The longest of the Long Wars grinds on.
Put bluntly, U.S. and NATO leaders continue to reinforce failure in Afghanistan. Their strategy, such as it is, is simply more of what hasn’t worked over the last fifteen years. Apparently, forever war is sustainable to the U.S. and NATO. No one seems to be asking whether the cost is sustainable to the Afghan people.
The second item involves American aid to Israel, which is primarily military aid. Here’s how the folks at FP put it:
Israel: After much back and forth sparring, the U.S. and Israel appear to be nearing an agreement on a U.S. military aid package. Israeli officials had been hoping that the Obama administration would agree to a memorandum of understanding (MOU) promising $40 billion in aid over a decade — an increase of $10 billion over the last MOU. So far, the U.S. has been discussing a deal in the range of $35-37 billion. Other questions about the aid remain up in the air such as whether the final package will include money for missile defense and how much of the money Israel will be able to spend among its own defense contractors versus American companies.
There you have it: the “sparring” between Israel and the U.S. is about whether Israel will get a huge chunk of America aid, or a gargantuan chunk of aid. Meanwhile, the U.S. government seems to have no influence over the Israeli government. Netanyahu does pretty much what he wants to do, even as he thumbs his nose at Obama.
The “punishment” for Netanyahu’s intractability – well, there is none. As a punch-drunk American heavyweight boxer staggers about the ring, a sneering Israeli lightweight launches punch after punch, taunt after taunt. And after absorbing the punishment the heavyweight simply throws in the towel and agrees to the lightweight’s terms.
Of course, none of this will change under President Hillary Clinton. If anything, Clinton will pursue the Afghan War with more vigor and ladle even more “aid” to Israel. Under President Trump, who knows? All bets are truly off since Trump changes his positions as often as most men change their underwear. (For example, Trump first affirmed neutrality in negotiating between the Israelis and Palestinians, then pledged one-sided support for Israel in a speech to AIPAC.)
Well, my dad always said, the more things change, the more they remain the same. In these two cases, he was right – yet again.