Let's begin with an absolute truth that is almost never acknowledged and which has driven America's decisions in Afghanistan and Iraq: in America it is more acceptable to declare many Muslims terrorists and kill them than it is to provide impoverished, majority-Muslim countries schools and hospitals. This tragic reality means that instead of instituting something akin to a Marshall Plan for Afghanistan, three American presidents have now continued a failed strategy built around the false premise that we can bomb our way to something they can pretend is a victory.
In reality, a military-only strategy to the problems in Afghanistan is won that at best will result in America not losing. It will never bring about an actual victory. Trump's words prove this to be true. Now, he is talking about the possibility of a future Afghan government that involves the Taliban. That idea was unimaginable and would have been unacceptable when Bush began the Afghan conflict with no long-term strategy.
The Taliban's influence in Afghanistan is much more complicated than the fear it injects and the misguided version of Islam too many believe. Those arguments have been peddled for nearly 17 years by politicians and military leaders who lack the will to do what's right and who must constantly justify the continued build up of the military industrial complex. The lie we are sold is that wild military spending is about our safety. The truth is that the military industrial complex is about funneling massive amounts of tax dollars away from programs that could better help the American people and into the pockets of the few corporate masters running defense contractors. In turn, those corporate masters share some of their largess with the campaigns of the politicians who approved the wasteful military spending.
Last night, Trump mentioned nuclear weapons and missiles. The Afghan conflict has nothing to do with nuclear weapons and missiles, those weapons cannot defeat an insurgence without also claiming thousands of innocent civilians; however, using the fear of a possible terror attack emanating from Afghanistan is a "wonderful" excuse to justify the spending of billions of dollars on weapons that will be obsolete the minute they are built.
The only path to victory in Afghanistan is to realize that the people of Afghanistan deserve a victory too. If we could ever come to what should be an obvious conclusion, we would understand that ending terror is not continuing the foolish ideology that says we can kill every terrorist. The only way to end terrorism is to give people a good reason to avoid being terrorists. Obviously, the more opportunity one has, the better they feel, the more access to health care they have, the more hope they feel for their children's chances, the less likely anyone is to become a terrorist.
The answer to terrorism is not complicated. The answer to terrorism depends on our ability to stop paying lip service to the ideals of equality of opportunity and access to justice. In the long run, it's far more effective to encourage people to believe in themselves and to see us as friends than it is too continue killing people. This is especially true when we admit that we kill way more innocent people than we want to acknowledge. Can you imagine what would happen if a country targeted a terrorist in America and accidentally destroyed an apartment complex housing hundreds of Americans? The outrage would be spectacular. The outcome would likely be war. But America has killed thousands of innocent Muslims since 911 and our government won't even own up to anything close to an accurate number. Given this obvious double standard placed on innocent lives, it is impossible to conclude that America cares that much for the lives of innocent Muslims. That unmistakable message has a lot to do with the spread of terrorism. You can't honestly reject the taking of innocent lives while regularly taking innocent lives.
There's profit in fighting terrorism. In curing it, not so much.
NY Times: "President Trump, searching for a reason to keep the United States in Afghanistan after 16 years of war, has latched on to a prospect that tantalized previous administrations: Afghanistan’s vast mineral wealth, which his advisers and Afghan officials have told him could be profitably extracted by Western companies."
I keep looking for the source of the quotation about Afghanistan being the "graveyard of empires". I found articles debunking that quote, but also describing why it is said.