Recently the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan came to an end. The longest war in the history of the U.S. ended with a no-frills ceremony. The NATO mission’s flag was taken down, and, just like that, the war ended.
Of course, upon closer inspection, this is not at all the case. The Afghanistan that we leave behind is more fractured than ever. Not to mention that 10,000 U.S. troops will remain in the country for at least the next two years in “non-combat roles.”
As U.S. citizens, I think we are obligated to admit our culpability in the creation of the current situation in Afghanistan.
Undoubtedly, the initial reasoning behind putting combat troops on the ground made sense. The U.S. had just suffered the worst terrorist attack in its history, and retaliation was on everyone’s mind. Afghanistan was presented to the U.S. populace as a state that harbored the terrorists who had committed the September 11 attacks.
As is often the case, the reality is not so simple. While certainly Al-Qaeda was based out of Afghanistan at the time, defeating an organization of this type is not as simple as invading the country it inhabits.
Gone are the days of the Second World War, where victory was as simple as taking a certain amount of land. As everyone knows, Al-Qaeda is a stateless organization and continues to operate to this day.
Thus, while the initial reasoning behind the invasion certainly appeared justified, it ignored the complexity of the situation.
Afghanistan is by nature a fractured place. The mountainous terrain, the warlords and the lack of infrastructure make it a country that bears a closer resemblance to feudalistic Europe than contemporary Western nations.
These facts are nothing new, either. Both the Russians and the British have tried and failed to control Afghanistan. The colonial model never worked there. The society is simply not suited to beng a Western-style democracy at this point, and no amount of military might is going to change that.
Our government has chosen to invest in cruise missiles to be shot into Afghanistan rather than schools to further education or roads to expand commerce. So, as troops withdraw, can one honestly think that this combat mission has improved the lives of normal Afghanis in any way?
The U.S.-backed Kabul government is financially insolvent, absurdly corrupt and, to top things off, holds little sway beyond the city limits of Kabul. Clearly, the situation in Afghanistan is bad, but can we at least say that this conflict has helped to make the U.S. safer?
Frankly, I do not think so. With the recent emergence of the gargantuan threat of the Islamic State, Middle Eastern terrorism is stronger than ever. While this threat has little direct relation to Afghanistan, it is hard to believe that it would have come into existence without U.S. intervention in the Middle East.
Unfortunately, the end of the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan should not be seen as the end of the story. Instead, it should be viewed as simply another event in a long line of mistakes that the U.S. had made in its relations with Middle Eastern countries.