At the start of his State of the Union address in January 2010, President Barack Obama touted the success of the Obama administration’s first surge in Afghanistan, which included the decision to send another 17,000 troops, in what amounted to a last-minute surge at the end of the surge.
“The war in Afghanistan is coming to a responsible end,” Mr. Obama said. “Twenty-three years ago, at the end of the Cold War, the Soviet Union had been toppled, and Afghanistan was under the rule of a brutal dictator. The world was in chaos. “
The president said the Republican-led Congress had launched a “phony debate” over what to do next in Afghanistan, a country he identified as the “patriotic duty” of a united America.
“Whatever America’s goals, we are determined to achieve them with Afghan leadership and Afghan help,” Mr. Obama said. “We’re building an enduring partnership with Afghanistan in which both nations benefit from stability and peace.”
Now Mr. Obama’s successor is wrestling with a starkly different reality.
“After more than 15 years of war in Afghanistan, that war is not winnable, it is lost,” Mr. Trump said on July 27.
Despite growing indications that the Taliban has an upper hand in Afghanistan, the Trump administration is struggling to come up with a new strategy for Afghan operations that includes dealing with the Taliban. It is unclear whether the administration’s high-level strategic review, which could wrap up soon, will include “strategic reintegration” of Taliban forces and efforts to give moderate leaders a political alternative.