The Current

Why the U.S. 'war machine' is driving troops into Afghanistan: Jeffrey Sachs

U.S. President Trump's recent change of heart to now send troops into Afghanistan to "defeat the enemy" is not a strategy at all, says Jeffrey Sachs.
U.S. Defence Secretary James Mattis has signed orders to send more troops to Afghanistan. But critics argue the U.S. should be pulling out of Afghanistan, not sending in more troops. (Omar Sobhani/Reuters)

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As the war in Afghanistan rages on and the Taliban appears to — once again — be gaining strength, U.S. President Donald Trump has committed more troops to "defeat the enemy."

America's new Afghanistan policy is expected Sept. 6, when Defence Secretary Jim Mattis testifies before Congress, but Trump already outlined in August that one of his key pillars in the U.S. strategy is to leave the generals in charge.

"Micromanagement from Washington, D.C., does not win battles," Trump has said, leaving matters to the "expertise of wartime commanders and front-line soldiers acting in real time with real authority."

We've learned in our history in the United States that it's the wise presidents who are able to say 'no' to the military.- Jeffrey Sachs 

Trump calls his strategy "a clear mission," but professor Jeffrey Sachs argues there is no strategy at all. 

"We are in an endless cycle of violence without clarity, purpose, direction, chance of success," he tells The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti. 
'Leaving war to the generals has become Washington's default mode,' Jeffrey Sachs says in his Boston Globe article: Afghanistan and the collapse of American governance. (Omar Sobhani/Reuters)

"Remember, the coalition forces so-called had more than 100,000 troops in Afghanistan … Just a few years ago, that didn't 'defeat the enemy.' This is political. This is social. This is economic. And this is not for us."

Sachs, who recently wrote a piece for the Boston Globe, Afghanistan and the Collapse of American Governance, explains that Trump's about-face from his campaign message to end the U.S. involvement in the country is partly due to the government's "deep, permanent security state and that is a war machine."

RelatedTrump's Afghanistan war strategy: A 'realistic but undefined' policy U-turn

To begin with, Sachs says the U.S. has been at war perpetually for decades. And beyond the enormous fortune invested in the vast military apparatus, "the modus operandi between the covert operations of the CIA, the special ops and the U.S. military is to fight."

President says he won't detail exactly when and how the U.S. will attack 1:19

Sachs adds politicians don't have a strategy for winning the war, nor do they want to take the onus for losing it either. He describes this happening during the Obama administration.

"He just wanted to stretch it out so that he wouldn't be blamed."

Although Sachs says it's rare he agrees with Trump, he thinks Trump "made sense about ending these wars."

"But the generals get to him, the permanent state gets to him and the wars continue," he tells Tremonti.

"We've learned in our history in the United States that it's the wise presidents who are able to say 'no' to the military."

"Well, Trump can't, obviously — and did not."

Listen to the full segment near the top of this web post.

This segment was produced by The Current's Lara O'Brien and Ines Colabrese.