Afghanistan’s been a disaster since the moment Bush took his eye off the ball and put the focus on Iraq. Since then, the security situation there has deteriorated markedly, with the Taliban taking back significant areas of the country and Al Qaeda making incursions into areas that were previously under US control. President Obama drew down troop levels in Iraq after the security situation there had stabilized and put more into Afghanistan, fulfilling one of his campaign promises.
And as of yet, the jury’s out as to whether or not the second surge we’ve seen in the past few years is working. Some in the military and government are of the opinion that the surge is working, and others are more pessimistic, arguing that by shifting the focus from Afghanistan to Iraq, we missed a critical time window in which to pacify, unify, stabilize and grow the country. Some intelligence analysts seem to see echoes of Soviet intelligence reports reminiscent of the years directly before they withdrew in defeat. Lord knows, our intelligence community has dropped the ball numerous times before. That they could do so now should not come as a surprise.
I’m not entirely sure why we’re there, aside from decimating Al Qaeda in the wake of 9/11. Going forward, I think that the priority of the government ought to be keeping the United States, its territories and our allies safe. In many ways, I fail to see how our continued presence in Afghanistan achieves this. You could make the argument that our presence there, in many ways, achieves the opposite, fanning the flames of hatred of us in the Muslim world.
And in addition to being unsure as to why we’re there, I’m not even sure what a ‘win’ looks like anymore. In a country where women are so abused that they commonly set themselves on fire, we need to be realistic about what we can accomplish. This is a country, that in many ways, has more in common with feudal Europe than the United States today. We’ve spent the better part of a century playing God to the globe, trying to remake many nations in our image. Occasionally, there have been some successes (Germany and Japan), but overall, the strategy has been a dismal failure (most of the Middle East and Latin America). The faster we push for American conceptions of ‘progress,’ especially when the military is involved, the stronger the resistance is to actual, home-grown progress.
The withdrawal date for combat troops is July of 2011. I say we withdraw, regardless of whatever ‘progress’ we make in the country. We can’t afford to to continue this struggle, either financially, or politically. If Afghanistan can’t stabilize itself, we can’t do it for them either. Nobody can, save Afghans.