Sixteen years of war, thousands of men and women risking their lives, and little progress to show. Talk of the never ending war in Afghanistan is circling around again after the Pentagon issued a news release confirming that defense secretary, Jim Mattis, was authorized to send in an additional 4,000 troops. Mattis stated that increasing the number of troops is part of a long-term strategy to stabilize Afghanistan, but after 16 years of war and little improvement, we find it difficult to rationalize sending thousands of more troops without a clear mission.
According to Mattis, the additional 4,000 troops are needed to slow the progress of the Taliban, who now control or contest more than 40 percent of territory in Afghanistan. We can agree that their progress is alarming, but how did it get to this point with 8,500 troops in Afghanistan already? How were the Taliban able to expand with a strong military presence already in place? These unanswered questions lead us to believe that more troops should not be sent to Afghanistan if the government has not clearly articulated a strategy to combat the Taliban and stabilize the country.
Sending more troops to do the same thing that has been done for years – train the Afghan military and hunt down members of extremist groups – is unlikely to change the outcome of the war at this point. If it hasn’t worked in the past, why would it work now? The Taliban were still able to expand under these conditions. If there really is a bigger and better plan for these additional troops, it needs to be put in place before thousands of men and women are deployed to a country full of violence and hate. Not after, and definitely not at all.
Sending more troops without a clear strategy is asking for trouble. There have been six U.S. combat deaths in Afghanistan this year, and they were all in the fight against ISIS. One incident, suspected to be an insider attack, blurs the line between friend and foe. We cannot risk more lives by recklessly sending more Americans to fight a war that we are losing.
We should worry about the increasing threat in Afghanistan, but we cannot overlook why this was able to happen. What could we have done differently to avoid this outcome? If we have 8,000 troops in Afghanistan already, we should focus on improving their strategy before we send in more troops to correct the issue at hand.
Sending 4,000 more troops to Afghanistan without a clear strategy is irresponsible and just plain dumb. If we are going to make any headway with this war, we need to play it smart. We need to make sure that our men and women are prepared to succeed rather than just occupy and wait for change. If the government truly feels that additional troops are necessary, then they better come up with a plan for them fast. Without one, we are sending thousands more to sit and wait for a 16-year war to take its course.
This editorial was written by Ashley Meyer based on the opinions of a JAMS 504 editorial board.