November 3rd, 2009 :: Permalink
According to CENTCOM Commander General Petraeus, Afghanistan "has deteriorated markedly in the past two years," due to worsening security, escalating corruption and high levels of opium trafficking. Yet his assessment is irrelevant. The U.S. is not in Afghanistan to win; we have known for years that our attempts at nation building have failed. We are stuck in this hell hole solely due to individual arrogance and national ego.
There is nothing worth fighting for in Afghanistan - never has been. But if we leave now, radical Islamists will have won their second victory against a world superpower. The perception that a small band of "freedom fighters" defeated the mighty U.S.A. will have resounding political consequences throughout the world.
Sending our military into Afghanistan after the 9/11 tragedy was the right thing to do. Unfortunately the plan was deeply flawed. As David correctly summarizes:
"Our initial goal in Afghanistan was to break up al Qaida strongholds where terrorism was plotted against U.S. targets, and we ran al Qaida out of Afghanistan eight years ago."We should have departed immediately after this. We wisely pursued a narrowly defined mission; accomplished that mission; and victory was in our hands. Yet we missed our exit and American prestige and credibility has become the war. There is no military benefit in remaining. Again, as David notes, "There would be nothing to stop us from returning with surgical strikes if they try to set up again after we pull back."
Many Americans have a better understanding of history in the region primarily due to "Charlie Wilson's War." This movie exposed our negligence abandoning the Afghan people, creating a power vacuum and seeding the roots for the 2001 attacks.
Leaving now reinforces David's point, well-known by both enemies and friends, that, "Americans quickly lose their stomach for bloodshed when our national interest becomes fuzzy ..."
I have a close friend working with ISAF in Kabul. For years we have been waging our own battle against the Taliban and extremists - using goats (no ... we're not affiliated with Clooney's new movie, "The Men Who Stare at Goats"). I have worked with leaders of the Afghan-American coalition since 2002. Doctors and dentists in our coalition routinely travel to the region to do real nation building. Goats are a life line for poor Afghan families. They are excellent sources of milk and meat. With enough goats we could have won the "hearts and minds" of this nation. We chose bullets.
Today our efforts are perceived as arrogant, domineering and insensitive to their plight. Both Afghans and Pakistanis express their anger at the U.S. by chanting "Long live the Taliban."
A friend sent me this recently, "It's human nature to expend whatever energy is required to prove a point, no matter the cost. As a result, we're seduced into making decisions that gratify the ego but injure the common good."
If you ask a typical Pashtun, they will famously tell you, "One can rent an Afghan but never buy one." Meaning, nations have come and gone and we know you will eventually leave as well. We will ... they can wait. They do think in terms of centuries. This is just another chapter in The Great Game. Few educated Americans have studied this history but illiterate Afghans will proudly tell us how the story ends ...