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August 23, 2017

Afghanistan: What your students should know about the new strategy in America’s longest war

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  • On Monday, President Donald Trump announced plans to deploy 4,000 more U.S. troops in the 16-year long Afghanistan War, the longest war in our country’s history.
  • Trump made no mention of an end date in the new military strategy. During the presidential campaign, Trump pledged to withdraw troops and end the war.
  • Most of the NATO-affiliated U.S. troops will train Afghan soldiers, something that American troops have been doing since the start of the war.
  • Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani praised Trump’s decision for more troops and for not attaching a timetable, something President Obama had done while he was in office.
  • During this speech, Trump echoed the military establishment’s thinking and put pressure on Pakistan for permitting Taliban soldiers to safely travel back and forth between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
  • Critics of the new strategy including both Democrat and Republican members of Congress say it is a “rehashing” of the old strategy and that military surges in Afghanistan have not worked.
  • From 1996 to 2001, Taliban forces controlled Afghanistan before they were overthrown by the American-led invasion in December 2011, following the September 11 attacks. Since then, an insurgency made up of Taliban fighters has fought the Afghan government and the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force.
  • The Taliban had given Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda safe haven in Afghanistan leading up to 9/11. Hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops were deployed to Afghanistan during the height of the war.

Key terms:

Taliban: an Islamic fundamentalist political movement in Afghanistan currently waging war within that country

al-Qaeda: a radical Islamic group organized by Osama bin Laden in the 1990s to engage in terrorist activities

Discussion questions:
  1. Essential question: Why has the Afghanistan War lasted so long?
  2. What do you know about the country of Afghanistan?
  3. How many people have lost their lives in the Afghanistan War? If you are not sure, how could you find out the answer?
  4. Do you agree with President Trump’s strategy to send more troops to Afghanistan? Why or why not? What about his push for more regional cooperation? Explain your answer. Why or why not?

Extension activities

Watch President Trump’s address as he lays out the new strategy in Afghanistan. Why does he say more troops should be deployed to Afghanistan? What does he say about how he came to this decision?

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