Center for Security Policy President Frank Gaffney joined SiriusXM host Raheem Kassam on Wednesday’s Breitbart News Daily to discuss President Trump’s announcement of his strategy in Afghanistan.
Gaffney said it remains to be seen whether Trump’s approach to Afghanistan is “different enough” from that of previous administrations to make a difference.
“I think that the president rejected what H.R. McMaster originally had in mind, thank God, which was 50,000 more U.S. troops in Afghanistan,” he said. “He didn’t, in the end, as you know, explicitly endorse a number.”
“In fact, he made some significant changes from the previous administration’s approach by saying we’re going to try to win, which is really a breakthrough,” Gaffney continued. “We’re going to make this condition-based, not arbitrarily aligned with some projections of the numbers of the amount of time they should be there. They’re going to stay until the job is done. All of that, I think, is an improvement over the previous administration if you think that we need to have a continuing presence in Afghanistan.”
Gaffney told Kassam he comes down “rather more closely to the approach that my friend Erik Prince and others have recommended, which is to reduce the American footprint – not abandon the place but greatly reduce the number of uniformed military personnel and the expense associated with trying to defeat the Taliban, and the Islamic State, and al-Qaeda, and who knows who all else at the moment who are operating once again from Afghan soil.”
“Do it with a small number of CIA personnel and some contractor support, basically backing up, and helping to lead, and helping to train, and helping to discipline, and helping to make more effective Afghan forces than we have proven to do thus far with this big army, big footprint approach,” he recommended.
Gaffney noted that if the conditions laid out by President Trump are never satisfied, his plan could devolve into another perpetual open-ended deployment.
“I think the reason you’ve seen so many military folks come forward and say ‘we like this approach’ is that it just wasn’t as capricious as what Obama was doing,” he said. “There was no rhyme or reason to what he was announcing – a surge one day, and we’re going to pull them out by such-and-such a date, without regard for the conditions on the ground.”
“Clearly that’s unsatisfactory,” he said of Obama’s approach. “That’s a formula for what we’ve had thus far, really, which is a meat grinder of our personnel with no appreciable results to show for it, other than I think emboldening the sharia supremacists who have taken great heart from the fact that they defeated one super-power, the old Soviet Union, and are quite confident they are on their way to defeating a second one.”
Gaffney said one of his biggest concerns is that “you don’t want to be emboldening these guys.”
“They already think it’s Allah’s will that they will triumph worldwide,” he explained. “Creating the impression in their heads that the jihad is working, that they will triumph, that they will not only triumph in Afghanistan but that they will triumph globally, is exactly the wrong signal to be sending.”
“What history has taught us about this phenomenon – and I think it’s best described, as Andy McCarthy does, as ‘sharia supremacism’ – is that if they think they’re with the winning horse, if they think that the jihad is proving successful, there’s no end of it. The only end of it, the only way to prevent it, is to prevail upon them that they will be destroyed. Not every single last one of them, of course, but enough of them to make it real obvious that this isn’t a winner, and they’re going to have to stop or be destroyed themselves,” he said.
Gaffney answered in the affirmative when Kassam asked if Obama’s strategy was excessively influenced by domestic politics and electoral considerations.
“He had run on a platform that he was going to get us out of Iraq, and he was going to win the ‘good war,’ as he put it, Afghanistan,” Gaffney recalled. “So he was throwing people in, but he also recognized that this was going to be a loser for his constituency, so he was going to make it for a finite time period, without regard for the actual conditions on the ground.”
“Are we in a time where people have just sort of accustomed themselves to having troops there and having expenditures there?” he asked. “It’s between elections, so it’s a little hard to say at the moment. I tend to think that one of the reasons that Donald Trump was elected president was he said we’re going to stop doing this sort of thing. So to the extent he is president, to the extent his base wanted him to stop doing this sort of thing, I’m not persuaded that this is going to sit all that well.”
When Kassam asked if Trump would be more likely to pull out, or to send even more troops, if the current strategy fails, Gaffney said President Trump has “opened the door” for more dramatic changes to Afghanistan policy in the future.
“The way he formulated this, the way he steered clear of setting some specific numbers of U.S. military personnel that were going to be added, or were going to be maintained, or for how long and all that, definitely seems to me it contemplates the transition from this kind of, well, failed model. Let’s be clear – it hasn’t worked for 16 or 17 years,” Gaffney said.
“What worked initially, we should recall, was something very like what Erik Prince talked about. We used CIA personnel, we used contractor support, we used air power – and some military capabilities, of course – and we destroyed the Taliban early on in this Afghan campaign. Then we went on to try to occupy the place, and to nation-build, and to turn it into a functioning democracy, and so on,” he recalled.
“With all the corruption, with the loss of life, with the expenditure of national treasure, my guess is the American people come the next election will say, ‘We don’t want to be doing this anymore,’” Gaffney anticipated.
“The Prince model, if you will, is an alternative that I think avoids losing, which I think most Americans will realize is not in our interests – but avoids also the meat grinder, the waste of lives and treasure that can and needs to be avoided, it seems to me, while we try to prevent this return of a sort of caliphate in Afghanistan, and the message that it sends to a lot of other people you want to dissuade from thinking they can win,” he said.
Gaffney said Trump was correct to call out Pakistan for its role in perpetuating the Taliban insurgency.
“If we allow Pakistan to continue to do what it’s doing, which is absolutely to subvert the Afghans and our interests in Afghanistan, and to promote the Taliban, and to enable other sharia supremacists to get in there and to operate with impunity, and to do the same from Pakistani soil, and to threaten India, and to proliferate nuclear weapons and missile technology and the like, that is a problem,” he warned.
“I think the president was absolutely right to call them out. I think he’s absolutely right to signal a very strong switch to an intensified relationship with Pakistan’s longtime adversary India. It remains to be seen, again, how all of this is actually implemented, but it seems to me at least at the broad strategic level, that’s the right thing to be doing,” Gaffney said.
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