After fighting in Afghanistan for more than 20 years, the United States will pull all forces from the country by Sept. 11, President Joe Biden has announced.

I’m not sure if it is a good idea. I’m not sure if US forces can be removed at all, but I am certain that setting the departure date of Sept. 11 is an upsetting concept.

Afghanistan has been the host of war after war for centuries. It hasn’t been at peace since 1979 when the Soviets thought they could subdue the Afghans. That didn’t work out well for the Soviets and somehow the United States thought it could do better in this war-torn nation in 2001.

On Dec. 24, 1979, Soviet tanks rumbled across the Amu Darya River and into Afghanistan to open their brutal and bloody war with the Afghan rebels.

Just 10 years later, the Soviets and Afghan communists were harshly defeated by anticommunist Islamic guerrillas, thanks largely to intense aid from the United States.

What grew out of those anticommunist Islamic guerrillas was to eventually become our future enemy — the Taliban and al-Qaida.

Between the defeat of the communists and the Sept. 11 attacks, al-Qaida opened training camps in Afghanistan. US intelligence believed Osama bin Laden — who was the head of al-Qaida — was behind the deadly Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.

Taliban leadership refused to hand bin Laden over to US officials, and our war in Afghanistan began.

In October 2001, the US began bombing Afghanistan. It targeted bin Laden’s al-Qaida fighters and also the Taliban in general.

By November 2001, our local allies, known as the Northern Alliance, took control of the Afghan capital Kabul. A coalition of countries joined to hunt for bin Laden and the Taliban were quickly driven out of Kabul.

It took another 10 years to find bin Laden but he was finally located and executed by US forces in Pakistan. While many celebrated, I only feared that this would widen the war.

Most of our allies left Afghanistan shortly after bin Laden’s death, including the United Kingdom in 2014.

Meanwhile, the United States and the coalition has remained in occupation of Afghanistan for most of the last decade. It seems like we are the only ones who care what might happen to this Islamic nation in the middle of everything that may or may not be important.

Over the terms of the past three presidents, George W. Bush, Obama and Trump, Afghanistan has been little more than a killing field for US forces. All of these presidents attempted to pull our forces out, but each was dragged back into the fight and our forces paid the ultimate price with their lives.

I don’t like war and I never have.

Growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, I watched the Vietnam War daily on television news. The reports were raw and bloody. Our nation finally garnered enough political pressure to pull forces out of Vietnam, though I don’t think we ever healed from that war.

Today, our entire nation flat-out ignores the war in Afghanistan. It’s so far away and so minuscule that we would rather fret over what our politicians are up to than to actually watch news about a war. How depressing. The people of the United States are butting heads with each other over political views while the men and women, enrolled in our armed forces, are waging war on other nations and many are dying.

Yet, we don’t often see reports out of the war zones. Instead, we see newscasts devoted to the destruction of civil rights, mass shootings, political scandal and whatever crazy thing will fit into the daily news cycle.

As a nation, we are in trouble if we don’t change our direction. I don’t believe any one person (especially a politician) can fix the United States of America. We were once the great leader of the world stage, but now it is time that we share that leadership with other nations.

Yes, I know we can’t trust many of the “other nations” of the world. We still have to work something out. We cannot remain isolated while the rest of the world continues to progress.

We don’t really have a choice.

Here is a list of wars fought in Afghanistan from Wikipedia

Conquest of Afghanistan by Alexander the Great (330 BC – 327 B.C.)

Muslim conquests of Afghanistan (637–709)

Conquest of Afghanistan by the Mongol Empire (13th century)

Mughal conquests in Afghanistan

Anglo−Afghan Wars (first involvement of the British Empire in Afghanistan via India)

First Anglo−Afghan War (1839–1842)

Second Anglo−Afghan War (1878–1880)

Third Anglo−Afghan War (1919)

Panjdeh incident (1885), first major incursion into Afghanistan by the Russian Empire during the Great Game with Britain

Afghan Civil War (1928–1929), revolts by the Shinwari and the Saqqawists, the latter of whom managed to take over the capital city for nine months.

Modern-era conflicts:

Afghanistan conflict (1978–present)

Saur Revolution (1978), communist insurrection against the Republic of Afghanistan government

Soviet–Afghan War (1979–1989), war between the Afghan mujahideen and Soviet Union following Soviet military intervention in support of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan government

First Afghan Civil War (1989–1992), collapse of the communist Afghan government of Mohammad Najibullah

Second Afghan Civil War (1992–1996), expansion of the Taliban across most of Afghanistan and establishment of the Taliban-ruled Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in 1996

Third Afghan Civil War (1996–2001), lead-up to the 2001 United States-led invasion of Afghanistan, during which the Taliban controlled most of Afghanistan, with the Northern Alliance controlling northern Afghanistan

War in Afghanistan (2001–present), post-American invasion and campaign against the Taliban and al-Qaida with the International Security Assistance Force (a coalition of countries including all NATO members); later with post-2014 phase consisting of anti-insurgency operations against the Taliban, al-Qaida, and ISIL

Reach the Editor at jheadley@wmicentral.com

(4) comments

Bob Smith

Everyone knows what's next for Afghanistan: the Taliban will easily take the country back resulting in a blood bath and refugee crisis. The part I don't get about this is why Biden is getting blamed for pulling us out - didn't Trump agree to the May 1st removal of US forces? From reading the news you'd think nobody remembers this...Anyway your analogy with Vietnam is a good one and let's all remember that one of our strongest trade partners and allies against China is Vietnam. Ironic considering how hard we fought to prop up the corrupt South Vietnamese government. I give Biden props on this one and think part of his perspective was from having a son who actually served overseas. Fortunate Son indeed!

ronzim

Absent from all of this is the one defining ingredient of foreign policy – our national interest. In determining the degree (if any) to which we involve ourselves in foreign discontents, it is essential that we define what national interest of ours is involved and to what degree we can succor that interest by some form of intervention. There is of course another compelling criterion, and that is what moral obligations do we have for the mitigation of humanitarian crises? America is usually first out of the starting gate with aid for natural/manmade disasters which have no connection to our national interests, but we do it because we determine it to be right. That aside, any other intervention, especially involving the use of force must be related to our national interest.

This then begs the question: Can we define one or more vital national interests of the United States in our exertions in Afghanistan? If so, just what are those interests which are so compelling that we expend the lives and bodies of our sons and daughters as well as considerable treasuries in that effort, without end or limits.

Second, to what degree have we defined just what constitutes success in this matter and how have we structured progress reports and feedback loops to measure that progress. Without such measures, we are simply agreeing to endless intolerable sacrifices which serve no definable purpose and the success of which cannot be measured. Remember an old managerial adage: That which cannot be measured, cannot be managed.

I find no such vital national interest in Afghanistan; however, there lies therein a humanitarian obligation to provide secure safety zones for anyone who is threatened by the Taliban/Al Quaida orbit and to ensure that decent quality of life minima are set thereat.

Vtrone

IMO,the vital interests in the Iraq war is oil, not WMDs nor democracy. The vital interests in Afghanistan war was the poppy (heroin) fields, which were protected by U.S. troops.

che guevara

The Afghanistan debacle has been nothing more than another one of America's Sport Wars , complete with all of the deception manufactured to get the populace convinced of it's legitimacy , no clear - cut objectives , and absolutely no exit strategy whatsoever . This of course makes such sporting endeavors a cash cow for the military - industrial complex , and the fact that opium production has increased somewhere around ten - fold since the invasion should also illustrate who else is profiting from this disaster .

Afghanistan has historically been the place where empires go to die . Alexander The Great learned this lesson well , as did the British , the old Soviet Union and the American Empire as well - to name but a few . Moreover , it has been suggested that mercenaries be hired ( with your tax dollars , of course ) to provide protection over the poppy fields production , thus assuring no interruptions in the opium and heroin trade . Remember that the big tobacco companies make their real money from the narcotic trade rather than tobacco , which is the legal front product . This for example is why the R J Reynolds Company developed the Camel cigarette product line in order to facilitate the shipping of Afghan opium via the controlled areas of the former Ottoman Turkish Empire . This however is another story , and is indicative of how very little to nothing is what it appears to be in the political realm .

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