“Trump announcing that the U.S. is not going to reveal troop numbers or withdrawal dates is not a strategy to end the war. It is a strategy for justifying continuous, permanent war,” IPS Middle East foreign policy expert Phyllis Bennis told The Real News Network following Trump’s speech on his strategy for the war in Afghanistan.

“We have been at war in Afghanistan now for 16 years. Afghan civilians are dying in higher numbers every single year in that war since the United Nations began keeping track,” Bennis said.

Meanwhile, Trump has turned over authority not to political strategists in and around the White House or the National Security Council, but directly to the generals on the ground. He maintained that conditions on the ground will guide the U.S. moving forward, but what that really alludes to is a self-perpetuating war, Bennis argued.

“Conditions on the ground are going to continue to be terrible as long as there’s military fighting going on,” Bennis said.

Bennis said there was no commitment to diplomacy in Trump’s speech.

“Every analyst looking at this war has acknowledged that there is no military solution and that we will need a political solution that’s going to involve parts or all of the Taliban, as well as the U.S. installed, U.S. armed, and U.S. backed government in Kabul,” Bennis explained. “That’s what’s going to ultimately end this war.”

In his speech Trump also threatened the military aid the U.S. provides to Pakistan and called on India to play a larger role in the economic development of the region.

Afghanistan has long been a venue for this competition between India and Pakistan, Bennis said, “So the idea that Pakistan is going to simply back off and allow India to emerge as the major regional power inside Afghanistan is pretty unlikely.”

Taking audience questions, Bennis spoke to the Trump’s administration’s long standing policies of having corporate interests influencing decision making, in this case the effort to make war more profitable.

Military interests get billions from the Pentagon to provide weapons and other equipment, and in return, those same companies spend millions of dollars lobbying Congress to make sure these wars continue, Bennis explained.

If the Trump administration’s real goal was to figure out a way to end this war, they would have to pull out the military assets. “That’s step one.” Bennis said.

The U.S. must also look at its obligations to this country that it has decimated over decades, Bennis argued.

“We owe an enormous debt to the people of Afghanistan. We don’t owe military occupation. But we owe money, support, and an investment in diplomacy.” Bennis said.

As for the anti-war movement at home, Bennis said it must be linked to racism and Islamophobia.

“Islamophobia at home is necessary to build support against Muslim-majority countries. These wars require a way of demonizing them,” Bennis explained. Meanwhile, “wars against Black communities in this country are being militarized because tanks are being brought home from Afghanistan,” she continued.

“We can’t separate out opposing war and opposing racism,” Bennis said. “We have to build movements that cross those silos.”

The full interview originally appeared on The Real News Network.

Phyllis Bennis directs the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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