‘US military bureaucracy has made it clear it wants long-term war in Mideast’
The global ‘war on terror’ first announced under President George W. Bush after 9/11 may take on a new life under President Trump, with Secretary of Defense James Mattis and National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster now promoting long-term US combat troop commitments in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.
Proposals for each of these countries are currently being hashed out, though there is no consensus, even between the US’ two top national security officials, on the details, according to Porter.
The plans are expected to be submitted to Trump separately, with the proposal for Afghanistan coming sometime before a NATO summit in Brussels on May 25.
Porter discussed the matter with RT’s Manila Chan.
RT: Trump previously said that the US can’t be the policeman of the world. Yet, the Pentagon and the US’ military leadership are talking about this kind of open-ended commitment. Do you think Trump will cave to his hawkish advisors?
Gareth Porter: First of all, we’re talking about permanent war that has already been going on for a number of years. The war bureaucracy has made it clear that that’s their intention – to have a long-term enduring generational war in the Middle East. What we’re really talking about here is: how is Trump going to handle the next generation of policy initiatives from the Pentagon in three different countries – Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. Each one of those is different, in a sense, because of different internal politics and relationships between the governments and the US. Two of them, however, are similar in one sense – that is that in both the case of policy toward Syria and policy toward Iraq. The war bureaucracy is now pushing for not just more troops to fight ISIS, [Islamic State, DAESH, ISIL], but also they are proposing a long-term US stay in those countries that will involve stabilization operations.
RT: Wouldn’t a long-term presence in those nations be tantamount to nation building?
GP: Exactly. That is another word for stabilization. Stabilization operations, certainly from the point of view of President Trump, are going to be regarded as nation building. So, there is a distinction here between those two countries and Afghanistan, where the US has already been involved in nation building for many years very openly. It’s been 16 years in Afghanistan and counting. Now the difference here is that, in Afghanistan, they want to reach a new agreement with the Afghan government which would assure them that we’re going to stay around without any doubts, without any hesitation. Whereas in the Obama administration, they were still saying: “We’ll review this every few years and see if this is working or not… Check the polls and we may have to decide it is not working.”
But what the military and Pentagon are now saying is: we want the US to have a commitment to the Afghanis that we won’t do that anymore; they can count on as for as long as they need us. I think that there are real questions here that are going to involve problems for President Trump going beyond the war against ISIS, which he’s all out for. He’s made it clear he is going to support that. But I think there are questions here that will really cause him some problems.
GP: No question that there is a tendency on his part to allow them to do what they want to do. On the other hand, we know that within the White House there are advisors to the president who are saying: “Hold on a minute: you don’t want to get into a nation building. You’ve said that and this is something that is extremely unpopular.” The Afghanistan war is the most unpopular war in the history of the US without any question. What they are talking about in Syria, in Iraq, and in Afghanistan is a further step down the road to permanent war and permanent nation building. There is certainly a possibility that he is going to stop and say: “No wait a minute, this is a bridge too far.”
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.