Are We Ready for Another 10 Years of Fighting in Afghanistan?

by on March 7th, 2015
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COMMENTARY | Ten years ago Oct. 7, the United States answered the attacks on 9/11 with airstrikes against Taliban positions around the small corner of Afghanistan still held by the pro-Western Northern Alliance. Ten years later, the war grinds on.

The opening days of the Afghan War were part Tom Clancy, part something from the “Arabian Nights.” B-52s blanketed Taliban positions while special ops forces linked up with Northern Alliance fighters and began the push to evict the Taliban from Afghanistan and, at the same time, capture or kill Al Qaeda operatives, including Osama bin Laden. The campaign included American special operators riding on horseback through the Afghan hills, the first American cavalry to see combat since the beginnings of the 20th century.

By the end of 2001, a new government had been installed in Kabul, the ancient capital of Afghanistan, and it looked like all that remained was mopping up. Bin Laden had escaped from the area of Tora Bora, though for a long time many thought he had been incinerated by allied air strikes.

Ten years later, to say that the victory is incomplete is putting it both mildly and politely. There is still a Taliban-led insurgency. The Afghan government led by Helmud Karzai is thoroughly corrupt. Neighboring Pakistan is harboring insurgents. It was in that country where the Navy SEALs eventually caught up with Bin Laden and ended him. Special operators and drone strikes continue to whittle away at Islamist terrorists hiding out in Pakistan.

While some suggest, with an eye toward Bush hatred, that the Iraq War distracted the United States from Afghanistan, the real problem has been the fact of the country itself, which has made it a problem for the British in the 19th century and the Soviets in the 20th. A combination of rough terrain and a people with a fierce warrior culture has made the country hard to occupy and almost impossible to pacify.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who once commanded coalition forces in Afghanistan, warns that we are but halfway to achieving a peaceful country, with a growing economy and improving quality of life for its people. It is true that under Gen. Petreaus and the current surge, some progress has been made in squashing the insurgency. But more fighting and hard work lay ahead if the complete victory can become an actual one.

Does the United States have the stomach for 10 more years of campaigning among Afghanistan’s hills, even on a low level? We better — the alternative is an Islamist victory, a return to Taliban rule, the recreation of the country as a terrorist stronghold, and the submerging of 30 million people into misery, poverty, and terror.

Sources: War in Afghanistan, The History Guy

US and Nato ‘far from goals’ in Afghanistan, BBC News, Oct. 7, 2011

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