America should be wary of sending more troops to Afghanistan. Appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee this month, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John W. Nicholson, called for thousands of more advisors to assist the Afghan security forces in their fight against the Taliban. U.S. forces have been at war in Afghanistan for over 15 years and he cost has been great: over 2,350 American war dead and almost 700 billion dollars spent. And for what? Far from defeated, the Taliban appear to be in the ascendancy and are wrestling a third of the country away from government control. Back in October 2015, Donald Trump suggested that he would “begrudgingly” keep U.S. forces in Afghanistan. But this prompted him to ask, “Are they going to be there for the next 200 years?”
Commanders in Afghanistan and military pundits in Washington have for years argued that Western forces must gain on the upper hand on the battlefield before the Taliban would enter into peace talks. Writing in War on the Rocks in December, Joe Collins repeated this line of thinking. At the height of the military surge under President Barack Obama in 2010, the United States had just over 100,000 troops in Afghanistan, serving alongside 30,000 more troops in the International Security Assistance Force coalition. Today is NATO has 13,000 troops in Afghanistan under its Resolute Support Mission and 8,500 of these are American. It is hard to imagine that a few thousand more will make any difference to the fortunes of the Afghan security forces. They are losing, and losing badly, primarily due to the endemic corruption that has undermined these and other institutions as well as public support for the government.