“The militants now control more territory than at any time since the 2001 US invasion.”
That is the most salient fact from a BBC article earlier this month, which goes a long way towards illuminating everything that is wrong with American foreign policy. As Ron Paul, the only honest man in Washington DC, has said, “The best thing that we can do for the Middle East is to stay as far away from it as possible.”
Yes, so after trillions of dollars spent on our wondrous military-industrial complex, and thousands of American lives lost (the vast majority of whom would say we shouldn’t have been in Afghanistan in the first place), the end result is that the Taliban is more powerful than before, and is running more towns, villages, provinces, and vast agricultural production networks, than it was before.
Now, why exactly would that be? It doesn’t take a PhD in foreign relations or Asian history to quickly determine that the Taliban enjoys widespread support from the Afghan people. The Afghan people are not rising up against what they perceive to be the oppressive yoke of the Taliban, clamoring for womens’ and gay rights, liberal democracy, capitalism, rule of law, separation of powers, and freedom of religion. Cities may contain small groups of people that support some of these ideas, but as the Soviets found out 30 years ago when they tried to import Communism to Afghanistan, it has long been a country that vehemently rejects ideology perceived as “foreign.”
Soviet Communism did not take root there, and neither did anything resembling Western liberal democracy, even with an 18 year military occupation. Trump promised during the 2016 campaign that he would bring our troops home, and let’s see if he keeps his word. The withdrawal of 5,400 troops would be a good start, but this would still leave 10,000 troops there.
It would be nice to think that the Afghan people are going to rise up against the Taliban and turn their country into a stable and prosperous democracy. Unfortunately, that appears highly unlikely, and it is hardly the responsibility of the United States government or military to police Afghanistan.
Our continued presence there will do more harm than good. Is the American presence welcomed in Afghanistan? Is it appreciated? Is it worth spending trillions of dollars and risking tens of thousands of American lives to try to force this isolated and impoverished nation to accept a political and economic system that is completely alien to them?
The Taliban clearly has widespread support in rural Afghanistan, across the country, and even in major cities, and there is no indication that that is going to change any time soon. If the Afghan people want to build a successful country, in whatever form that may take, they will have to do it themselves. We’ve been propping up a series of pathetic governments for 18 years, and enough is enough.
I am hardly an isolationist or a categorical opponent of using American military force overseas. I also would be delighted to eradicate the Taliban from Afghanistan. Unfortunately, that is not going to happen.
The Taliban largely claims now that they have no interest in exporting terrorism overseas, or attacking American or European targets. They are largely influenced by Deobandi nationalism, and suggest (probably correctly) that their focus is only within the borders of Afghanistan.
Here is what President Trump should do: Pull our troops out of Afghanistan. Let the Afghan government stand on its own for now. And tell the Taliban that if they ever allow the nation to be used as a base for international terrorism again, that we will bomb them into the Stone Age.
Yes, the Taliban may once again take over the nation of Afghanistan. Hopefully that will not happen, but it is entirely possible. If 18 years of current strategy has not worked, however, what would possibly lead us to believe that 36 or 54 years would turn things around? This is not a war, where two parties fight, one side loses definitively, and then everyone moves on. Islamic fundamentalism as manifested in the Taliban will be difficult to eradicate and clearly the US military is not the instrument to do so.
Contrast the situation in Afghanistan with the situation in Hong Kong, Venezuela, and Nicaragua today, where people are rising up against Communist dictatorships. I would far rather use the resources in Afghanistan to support the people of Hong Kong, Venezuela, and Nicaragua; places where people share our values and praise our free-market democratic system, and our Constitution which is its foundation.
Time to withdraw our troops from Afghanistan once and for all. It is not our battle to fight, and we can not possibly use our military power to ensure good governance in all of the world’s 190-odd countries. We must pick and choose our battles, and Afghanistan is a lost cause.