The war in Afghanistan has been brought back to the forefront over the last few months. That happened when leaks attempted to paint President Trump as ignoring “bounties” on U.S. troops placed by Russia. This supposedly happened in Afghanistan, and I use quotes around bounties because the story itself is highly questionable and the intel community says it’s unverified. What we do know is that Trump was not made aware of it until after the leaks made it into the news cycle.
Regardless, the media have never cared about verifying anything during the Trump era. They ran with the story because they thought it would hurt the orange man. There was no more thought put into it.
But beyond the media hysterics was a more obvious reason for the leaks. Namely, that people were trying to create a pretense to stay in Afghanistan, a war that is now approaching its 20th anniversary. My colleague streiff covered that in a recent article.
Now, Jake Tapper has a new gotcha on that front. Apparently, we are supposed to “confront” Russia in Afghanistan because Putin has supplied weapons to the Taliban.
After Swan rightly notes that regardless of the bounty story, Intel says Russia is supplying weapons to the Taliban, and asks “Isn't that enough to challenge Putin over the killings of American soldiers?” Trump says “Well we supplied weapons when they were fighting Russia too.“ https://t.co/FEK0Xj8nXA
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) July 29, 2020
Here’s what Tapper and others don’t get. Trump simply does not care. He wants out of Afghanistan and no amount of “but Russia did this” is going to change his mind. Russia has been supplying weapons to our adversaries the entire post-war era. You literally can’t find a country we’ve fought in over the last 75 years where we weren’t facing bought and donated Soviet surplus equipment. There’s nothing unique about the current situation, nor have past Presidents been expected to “confront” Russia about it.
Did Tapper or his network demand Barack Obama confront Russia about their supplying of weapons to Iran, who then used them to murder U.S. troops? Of course they didn’t, because that’s not how any of this works – or has ever worked.
I’ll also note that no one making this complaint, including Tapper, ever actually offers a suggestion of what should be done. More sanctions on top of sanctions on top of sanctions? An ultimatum that could lead to war? A stern talking to? What would qualify as “confronting” here?
The reason that question is never answered is because there is no easy answer. There’s very little we can do to Russia at this point that we haven’t already done. But Washington lives off bluster and virtue signaling. Facing reality would lead to a lot less of that. As I wrote when Rep. Liz Cheney first started making loud noises, our politicians would rather lie to us than just tell the truth about our geopolitics (see It’s Time to Stop Virtue Signaling About Russia and Face Reality).
In the end, Trump wants out of Afghanistan, full stop. No amount of gotchas or targeted leaks are going to change his mind. That’s why when he’s asked about this stuff, he deflects. He has no desire to offer any pretense or justification to anyone for staying in a war that has no reason for continuing at this point. Tapper can gnash his teeth over it, but that’s what’s behind Trump’s thinking, not drawing an “equivalence” with Russia and the U.S.