US President Barack Obama confirmed Washington will increase the total number of US troops in Afghanistan. He plans to keep them in the South Asian theatre until beyond his administration ends. The expected surge is expected to reach 8400 combat troops and support personnel, which is lower than the 9800 originally requested but higher than the 5500 Mr Obama proposed in 2015.
Despite Mr Obama’s hopes to end Afghanistan combat operations during his term, his hand was forced by a resurgence of Taliban aggression throughout the country – a result partially of the drawdown of foreign forces. This year’s fighting season (warm months) has already been the deadliest in recent years. An introduction of Islamic State groups into the country is also a factor.
Washington is urging that Kabul and the Taliban reach a “political settlement.” This reflects an acceptance that any post-NATO Afghanistan must accommodate the militant group into its political system or risk serious instability in the future. However, US troops will have tightly restricted rules of engagement for the remainder of their service and may not be able to enforce sufficient security to allow such a settlement.
In the UK, a 600-page analysis called the Chilcot Report found the case for the 2003 Iraq war was flawed for the UK, and by extension the US. The report suggests the supplied intelligence for a weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programme, organised by Iraq leader Saddam Hussein which prompted the invasion, could not be justified. The report however does not suggest any disciplinary actions for former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Aside from reopening political wounds, the report underlines the invasion was “illegal” because it wasn’t authorised by the United Nations. However, Saddam Hussein’s regime violated UN statutes many times – including attempted genocide – every one of which are considered sufficient reasons for foreign intervention in a sovereign nation state under UN law. The UN itself is flawed in that the permanent members of the Security Council cannot agree on when military force is justified.
The report, initially commissioned in 2009, will stoke fresh debate about the Iraq war. But history will be the judge regarding the conflict’s legacy. In many ways, the war has not ended, simply evolving into its current internecine form. And while bloody, the Iraqi people today do have the freedom to structure their own state (or states) as they see fit without foreign or tyrannical influence.