America’s current involvement in Afghanistan began shortly after the devastating attacks on September 11, 2001 which saw the destruction of the WTC Twin Towers, significant damage to the Pentagon and the death of nearly 3,000 people. This has now become the longest war in our nation’s history.
The Bush administration,based on intelligence reports that the attack was linked to al Qaeda, which was domiciled by the ruling Taliban in Afghanistan,struck back within a very short time by invading Afghanistan. The initial success in driving out al Qaeda and the Taliban was almost immediate. Both the Taliban and al Qaeda took refuge in the mountainous areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan and what appeared to be a quick victory, became misplaced optimism instead. The Taliban steadily developed an insurgency force from various radical Islamic sources, returned to Afghanistan, and is now a lethal and sophisticated enemy which is challenging the bolstered American and NATO forces in the region.
We must be realistic in assessing our situation in Afghanistan and the prospects for the future. In doing so, these factors must be considered:
1. Never in recent history has any foreign power been successful in achieving victory in Afghanistan. Both the Soviets and the British failed. In both instances the rugged physical environment, tenacious Afghan fighters and the local geopolitical tribal character of the country made any kind of victory or lasting effective national government, impossible to achieve. The situation has not changed today. It should be noted that even the Taliban had never attained the level of a national government in Afghanistan,confined instead to being rulers only of the scattered city regions in the nation.
2. The existing military capabilities of the Taliban and the recruiting of fighters for the jihadist cause in this war are remarkably high. Every time America achieves a victory in this war, whether by a troop engagement, or by the use of unmanned drones in the Pakistani tribal areas, the resolve of the enemy is increased and its recruiting strength in augmented. The quality and educational level of these recruits is increasing significantly. As a result so are the effectiveness and sophistication of their technology and fighting ability.
Notwithstanding the gallantry of our own military which has been truly outstanding, we must ask ourselves this question: How do we define the future of America’s involvement in Afghanistan ? For the leftists and liberal political elites in America, the answer is clear,but for those searching for a responsible longer range solution, the answer is much less obvious.We must conceptualize a future vision for Afghanistan which is realistic, and move in that direction without delay. A brute force military victory appears to be an unrealistic expectation given the resiliency and near endless recruiting capacity of the Taliban insurgency from the Pakistan side of the border.
To achieve long term success and stability will require that America demonstrate unwavering military resolve, and that political diplomacy be directed toward bringing in a moderate Taliban element as a faction of the Afghan government. The Afghan people must reject the fundamental hard line theocratic element of the Taliban, and a return to the fanatical brutal rule of the past.