Newsweek

Is Trump Ready to ‘Get the Hell Out’ of Afghanistan?

A "devastating" new intelligence estimate on Afghanistan will give Trump cover to order a complete retreat, analysts fear.
Donald Trump wants to get U.S. troops out of Afghanistan, amid Taliban gains and a "devastating" new report.
GettyImages-981994124 Source: OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP/Getty

Young Queen Victoria was shocked in 1842 when she belatedly learned the entire British army in Afghanistan, some 16,000 men, had been annihilated by tribal warriors. But not, evidently, for long. Undeterred, the United Kingdom would shrug off the loss—fight two more wars in Afghanistan— and never gave a thought to relinquishing its self-given role as the world's civilizing and stabilizing force. A hundred years would pass before it finally exhausted its Treasury and lost its empire in the Second World War.

The United States assumed Britain's role as the world's superpower in 1945. But now it, too, faces exhausting drains on is Treasury, manpower and political will as a result of the original sin of attempting a gunpoint democratization of Afghanistan. Battered further by catastrophic forays into Iraq, Liby and Syria, millions of Americans are questioning their country's rightful role in the world. Abut half of American adults say the U.S. "has mostly failed in achieving its goals there," according to a recent Pew Research Center poll, while only about a third say it has succeeded. Another 16 percent say they do not know.

Now, President Donald Trump is said to be shifting back to his view that the war is a "total disaster" and considering a troop withdrawal. But would disengagement from afghanistan herald a new era of isolationism? At first glance, it would seem so. Trump not only proclaims Washington's meddling in the Middle East and South Asia a waste of time, lives and money but also regularly questions the entire edifice of the bedrock U.S.-European alliances that have kept the world from sliding into a nuclear world war for the past three-quarters of a century. His "America first" proclamations seem synonymous with a go-it-alone, Fortress America doctrine. 

Yet many see a darker consequence to Trump's strategies. A complete withdrawal from Afghanistan would leave the fractious nation to the intrigues of a theocratic Iran, a rising China and especially Vladimir Putin's Russia, not to mention Pakistan and

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