On a surprise visit to Afghanistan, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter looked to lay out US military policy in the country for decades to come, despite the Obama Administration having only about a month left in office, vowing that US occupation forces will remain in the country on an “enduring” basis.
The US invaded and occupied Afghanistan in late 2001, and over 15 years later still has in the ballpark of 10,000 ground troops in the country. Carter insisted the US sees its goal of preventing another 9/11 requiring them to keep their troops in Afghanistan to ensure “stability” in the country.
The “stability” provided in the last 15+ years has been constant warfare, which has seen mounting losses in recent months, leaving the Taliban with more territory than at any time since the initial invasion, and which is also seeing a growing ISIS insurgency active in some parts of the country.
Carter’s comments on what will happen in the years to come were made in spite of President-elect Donald Trump not discussing his own policy intentions toward the endless occupation. Trump has, however, criticized the general US policy of nation-building.
Carter’s statement appears intended to lock the US in to the status quo for the Trump Administration, or at least to make it extremely inconvenient for him to chart a new course in the war. Other Obama Administration officials have similarly made pledges of “enduring” commitments elsewhere around the world, despite indications that the two administration have wildly different ideologies.