AMERICAN INVOLVEMENT IN AFGHANISTAN: WHEN SHOULD WE LEAVE?
The American involvement in Afghanistan was a military reaction to the Al Quaeda attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001. Masterminded by Osama bin Ladin, these attacks killed over 3,000 persons and injured many more. The devastation wreaked emotional and economic havoc on the United States and the world, plunging it into a defensive mindset that exists today. Intelligence placed bin Ladin’s whereabouts to be in one of Afghanistan’s many mountainous regions under the protection of the Taliban, Afghanistan’s religious militia. Military strikes and bombing began and the ground forces were committed in an undeclared war.
Afghanistan is a difficult place to fight a conventional war with modern weapons. Alexander the Great turned back from Afghanistan after his men almost mutinied against the legendary warrior king. The British Empire ended there. And one of the key elements to the disintegration of the Soviet Union was its defeat and retreat from that nation and the subsequent problems it brought with it.
It is a common fault to refight the last war, although the lessons learned are the freshest and hardest. When the United States reached an accommodation on withdrawal of forces and the “Vietnamization’ of the war in that country, all the hardware in the inventory of the departing forces could not save that country from the onslaught by the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong. The scenes of evacuating helicopters, panicked civilians as Saigon fell, and the damage to the image and reputation of the United States was severe. Announcing a date to leave Afghanistan will not make things better, casualties in wounded and damage to morale will be high. Who wants to be the last man shot in a war that has been declared over at a future date ? Politically designed rules of engagement have drawn criticism from many quarters and deserve real criticism. Unfortunately it is too late and the damage done. Is it unrealistic to admit that we now join Alexander, Queen Victoria and the former USSR as nations that found Afghanistan a mountain too high to climb ?