The US former National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said Wednesday the war in Afghanistan can be sustained, but the narrative of a war-weary American public is hurting that effort.
Quoted in a report by Military Times, McMaster said long wars are manageable when waged alongside allies, utilizing burden sharing.
“There’s this defeatist narrative that’s inaccurate, and doesn’t reflect what’s at stake and doesn’t reflect the actual situation,” McMaster said at a think tank forum in Washington, D.C.
The American public is not properly weighing costs when debating the military’s role in the Middle East, according to McMaster, who pointed to a recent town hall debate he watched.
“A young student stood up and said, ‘all I’ve known my whole life is war,’” McMaster said, who now serves as chairman of the US Center on Military and Political Power at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
“Now, he’s never been to war, but he’s been subjected, I think, to this narrative of war-weariness,” he said as quoted by the Military Times. “The United States today has a smaller percentage of its military deployed overseas than it has had since 1950," he added.
Americans should view the war in Afghanistan as essentially an “insurance policy” against what could happen in the country, McMaster said, adding that the collapse of the US-backed Afghan government would forfeit a region known as Khorasan to jihadi groups.
“They’re trying to establish these emirates,” he said. “And then stitch these emirates together into a caliphate in which they force people to live under their brutal regime and then export terror to attack their near enemies, Arab states, Israel, and the far enemies, Europe and the United States.”
The United States has spent at least $100 billion on Afghanistan war which still continues with almost 20 designated terrorist groups operating in the country.
A recent report by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan showed a record number of civilian casualties in the country and said most of the casualties were caused by pro-government forces.
“If you think about the importance of the mission in Afghanistan, to protect what is fundamentally a transformed society, from the enemies that we’re facing — the Taliban and their al-Qaida allies — it is a cost that is sustainable,” McMaster said.
McMaster also said that the term “nation-building” has created an unrealistic expectation of what the US can do to shape another country, especially one like Afghanistan, according to the Military Times report. But progress has been made there, he added, pointing to the arena of women’s rights and democratic voting.
“Afghanistan is not going to become Switzerland. It’s just not,” he said. “It can be Afghanistan, and it can be an Afghanistan like it was in the ’70s or like it was during this really short but brutal period of rule under the Taliban from 1996 to 2001,” he said as quoted by Military Times.