- - Thursday, December 19, 2019

When the Afghanistan Papers were released last week by The Washington Post, we finally got definitive proof of what many of us have known for years: The foreign policy establishment is lying. For nearly two decades, we’ve been told victory in the Afghan war is nigh, but they’ve merely thrown away countless lives and taxpayer dollars in a fruitless forever war. 

To his credit, President Trump recognized this reality back in 2012, taking to Twitter (as he’s wont to do) to complain. “Afghanistan is a total disaster. We don’t know what we are doing. They are, in addition to everything else, robbing us blind,” Mr. Trump wrote. Since he took office, he’s continued with that same line.

Of course, even though it seems that he wants to, he hasn’t ended the war.

The president has pulled the rug out from under his own feet by bringing onboard hawkish advisers and cabinet officials. Former Ambassador Nikki Haley, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the since-fired National Security Adviser John Bolton were all infinitely more prone to military intervention than the president and unwilling to enact his more restraint-focused policies. Former Secretary of Defense James Mattis even chose resignation over enacting Mr. Trump’s plan to draw down U.S. forces in Syria.

Unfortunately, there’s a more pressing problem at hand than Mr. Trump’s advisers — one much more systemic and harder to surmount. The simple fact is that the infamous Washington foreign policy establishment purposefully hinders and undermines any attempt by Mr. Trump to pull back from these disastrous wars. The Executive Branch is riddled with officials and bureaucrats determined to block any attempt to deviate from the destructive status quo.

We have seen this time and time again through the tsunami of leaks from White House employees who despise the president, most notably the cowardly administration insider who anonymously authored the completely unverifiable book “A Warning” and freely admits he and other insiders have “vowed to thwart” Mr. Trump when they disagree with him.

The establishment is all too confident in its grip on America’s foreign policy. Listening to witnesses during the impeachment circus, one would come away with the impression that unelected bureaucrats are responsible for determining what America’s foreign policy will be, not the president. Alexander Vindman, a National Security Council bureaucrat, for instance, hectored civilian leaders over his military title and openly admitted in his congressional testimony he’d attempted to thwart civilian policy-making.

But the mighty establishment may have overplayed its hand this time. 

Public trust in the national security bureaucracy has eroded, thanks to the clear role it played in the attempt to remove Mr. Trump from office. Impeachment isn’t helping, either. And the recently-released Inspector General’s report, detailing far too many instances of the FBI’s deceit, subterfuge and outright lies, has made it obvious that the national security community is probably out of control. 

The Afghanistan Papers have removed any doubt.

The Afghanistan Papers’ true revelation isn’t the abysmal situation on the ground, made clear with a cursory glance at the past decade’s dreary reports and studies published by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). No, the true scandal is that we now have definitive proof that our leaders weren’t actually abject idiots when it came to our Afghanistan policy. They were knowingly engaged in a nearly two-decades-long campaign of outright lies and deceit.

The usual establishment swamp creatures will undoubtedly whine and moan about impending doom at even the slightest suggestion that we should finally leave Afghanistan. Yet, thanks to these documents, Mr. Trump and his surrogates can easily discredit and ignore them. And they should.

Over the next few months, 4,000 troops will reportedly begin a phased drawdown from Afghanistan. That’s certainly a step in the right direction, but it still leaves 8,000-9,000 troops in harm’s way for no real reason.

Earlier this year, the Pentagon began preparing contingency plans in the event that Mr. Trump orders a rapid withdrawal. Our troops are merely waiting for Mr. Trump’s say-so to kick these plans into gear and come home.

Mr. Trump will likely never have a better opportunity to override establishment objections and bring our troops home from a senseless war that even its public defenders, we now know, have acknowledged in private is an unmitigated disaster. It’s time to bring them home.

• Zachary Yost is a Young Voices foreign policy fellow and a freelance writer based in Pittsburgh. Follow him on Twitter @ZacharyYost

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