From War on the Rocks:
“Many hotspots and geopolitical adversaries are constantly in the news and likely at the forefront of the foreign policy issues President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team is focused on. Yet the issue that is most likely to be the first real foreign policy crisis of the Trump administration is the one that received no discussion at all during the presidential debates – Afghanistan.
Remember Afghanistan? The longest war in U.S. history? Where the United States, its allies in NATO, and several partner nations still have in excess of 13,000 troops on the ground? Where the United States last year spent approximately $3.6 billion on security force assistance alone? Where the United States has been dropping ever-larger numbers of bombs since President Obama gave U.S. forces more expansive authorities to achieve so-called “strategic effects?”
As was the case when Barack Obama took office in 2009, Afghanistan is again the “forgotten war,” taking the backseat to a war in Iraq. And just as President Obama inherited a war trending in the wrong direction, so too will President Trump. Today, Afghanistan’s economy is in decline, with its gross domestic product (GDP) having decreased each of the past three years. The country’s government is in a state of routine chaos, with the parliament having just dismissed seven government ministers and the first vice president having just publically beaten and kidnapped a political rival.
The security situation is no better. The commander of U.S. Central Command recently cited district control statistics that suggest 60 percent of Afghanistan’s population live in districts under the government’s control or influence, while about 10 percent live in districts under insurgent control (the rest of the population lives in areas that are contested). Yet these categorizations have been called into question – and anyway, they miss the point of the Taliban-led insurgency’s strategy and operational design, which is to first capture sparsely populated areas and then use those areas to marshal combat power and project it into ever more populated areas.”