Afghanistan conflict: Delegation name of Trump's game and it may pay off

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Generals deciding troop numbers and no end date to fighting risks 'mission creep' and the writing of

It's often tempting to dismiss statements made by the current leader of the free world, Donald Trump, as the ravings of an unbridled narcissist and fool. But not always.

When it comes to Afghanistan, some of what he said, in carefully scripted comments no doubt written for him by the team of top military officers that now effectively run the White House, he had some sensible things to say.

Some.

"Our troops will fight to win. We will fight to win," Trump said.

"From now on, victory will have a clear definition, attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing al Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan and stopping mass terror attacks against America before they emerge."

But the key thing Trump made clear - to move away from a nod to the isolationist wing of his supporters who backed a US pullout from Afghanistan - was nation building.

He said: "We want them to succeed, but we will no longer use American military might to construct democracies in far-away lands or try to rebuild other countries in our own image.

"Those days are now over."

afghanistan-conflict-delegation-name-of-trump-and-039;s-game-and-it-may-pay-off photo 1 Video: Trump: Washington can't micromanage war

The US and NATO plus other allies were sucked into a zero sum game in Afghanistan.

Back in 2001, the campaign plan was to topple the Taliban and rid the world of al Qaeda.

Iraq quickly became a bloody and disastrous distraction, so when Afghanistan came back into focus in about 2005/6, efforts at settling the new government there into power did spread into nation building.

Or rather, counter-terrorist operations cannot be conducted in a political vacuum and so the allies focused heavily on the building of support for themselves and Kabul through nation building.

Pretty soon this strayed into campaigns to educate women and girls and to try to fundamentally 'reform' ancient tribal societies to reflect better what westerners could understand.

This failed, inevitably. Poor intelligence and often woeful tactics led to soldiers from NATO fighting Rorke's Drift-style battles of survival against groups they called 'the Taliban' which were just as likely to be drug gangsters connected to the very government they were supposed to be supporting.

It all became a bloody mess.

But as Trump has regularly observed, Barack Obama's setting of a sell-by date for the US involvement in the country gave intelligence to the 'enemy' that the US has lost the stomach for a fight.

afghanistan-conflict-delegation-name-of-trump-and-039;s-game-and-it-may-pay-off photo 2 Image: US troops on patrol in Afghanistan near the Pakistan border

So now half of Afghanistan is in Taliban hands and patches around it remain safe havens for al Qaeda and a growing but small threat from the so-called Islamic State.

Trump is going to let the military set its own agenda. Delegation is the name of his game and it may pay off.

Tactics and troop numbers will be decided by the generals in charge. So will the timetable for battle and no date will be set for the "end of combat operations".

This risks 'mission creep' and the writing of a blank cheque by the US taxpayer.

If it works, Trump will take the credit.

If it does not, he can legitimately claim he left it to the experts and so failure isn't his fault.

This is not, of course leadership in any form that could be recognised.

But from Trump's perspective (and that is his only perspective) this strategy does not look so dumb.

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Article Afghanistan conflict: Delegation name of Trump's game and it may pay off compiled by news.sky.com