While a bipartisan array of “experts” rails against Trump’s Syria withdrawal, the Afghan War enters in 19th year to the sound of crickets.
We recently passed a milestone….Afghanistan and 18 years of war…..
On the 18th anniversary of the war in Afghanistan, President Donald Trump said on Twitter, “… it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home.” He added, “WE WILL FIGHT WHERE IT IS TO OUR BENEFIT, AND ONLY FIGHT TO WIN.” But rather than referring to the U.S. war in Afghanistan, Trump was actually talking about the role of U.S. troops in northern Syria, about which he had just made a serious decision. One wonders whether Trump would take greater interest in the longest official war in U.S. history if he had real estate interests in Kabul. He made absolutely no mention of Afghanistan on the anniversary of the war. But neither did most members of Congress.
There was a near blackout of the anniversary in the media as well. Of the major newspapers, only the New York Times paid some attention to it with a lengthy special called ‘We Are Inside the Fire’: An Oral History of the War in Afghanistan. While the report centered on the voices of Afghans, the paper minimized the role of the U.S. For example, the first section covering 1989 to 2001 was described in this way: “After the Soviet occupation, Afghanistan fell into a civil war between factions that were mostly bound by personal loyalties.” The Times did not see fit to add the civil war was largely fueled by U.S. weapons and cash flooding into the hands of the anti-Soviet jihadi warlords the CIA had deployed against the USSR. Those warlords and weapons set the stage for the Taliban and the brutality that followed. Still, the Afghan voices in the narrative consistently mentioned the futility of the U.S. war, with one doctor in Kandahar saying:
It would be better if Americans had never come here. Fewer people would have died. This war is not Afghanistan’s war; it is the war of the world, but they are fighting it in Afghanistan.
Plus the Taleban, the bane of the US, has gone from pariah to a diplomatic mission…..
Sitting face to face with top Pakistani officials at the country’s spacious Foreign Office under the glowing lights of a conference hall that regularly hosts meetings between visiting diplomats and Pakistani officials, the 12-member Taliban delegation seemed no less than a foreign mission carrying out state business.
The only exception was their dress – the neatly-pressed black waist-coats over white shalwar kameez with white and black turbans in instead of suits with matching ties.
Adding warmth to the “brotherly” ties with hugs and beaming smiles, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi also donned a shalwar kameez, although the color of his dress was not as brightly white as that of his Taliban interlocutors.
Afghanistan is a mess…is there any chance we could do any better?
fghanistan held its elections on September 28. Although we won’t know results for weeks, a relatively low turnout underscores the shortcomings of the U.S.’ approach to peacebuilding and security in the troubled state. Voter concern about Taliban attacks and electoral fraud led many to stay at home. It’s not controversial to assert that security and institutional trust are essential in bringing stability to a fragile democracy, but for both the Afghan government and the U.S., a strategy for achieving these aims has proven elusive. The news isn’t all bad, though. There is a relatively young—but active and growing—set of civil service organizations (CSO) in Afghanistan looking to support community-building and democratic activities. And there is a clear strategy the U.S. can take to support CSO success.
Before 2001, most CSO activity was either involved in traditional governance or humanitarian aid pursuits. After the Taliban was removed from power, international NGO support and funding for CSO activity boosted dramatically and they’ve taken on an accordingly broader spectrum of development activities.
I can agree with Trump on something he said recently…..“… it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home.”
Fine words but actions would be a better thing to write about.
18 years is enough for our troops to endure.
“Farm boys with guns.” That’s how then Captain Sjursen described average Taliban fighters while serving in Kandahar province. I was speaking to a Reuters reporter that shadowed me for a few days – since I was a New Yorker – to mark the then 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks way back in 2011. Much to the chagrin of my commanders, I was just frustrated enough, and had buried just enough troopers to give the reporter a real story. “When I see this place, I don’t see the [Twin] Towers,” I’d said when asked about the connection between 9/11 and my own mission in Afghanistan during the Obama “surge.” I was right then, but even now, eight more years into America’s longest war, the same old tired arguments are trotted out to justify perpetual military intervention.
I Read, I Wrote, You Know
“Lego Ergo Scribo”