The never-ending war in Afghanistan

I remember, after the 911 terrorist attack on United States, talking about the comming attack on Afghanistan with my classmates at the Faculty of social sciences in Ljubljana. One of them, with no real sympathy for Americans, predicted they would be defeated. You know, Afghanistan, the graveyard of empires and such. I will not repeat, what he said about the American victims of 911 attack in New York.

2001 was still time, when American military power seemed unparalleled. Sure, Americans would have some hard time occupying Afghanistan, but they would emerge victorious. Afterall, they were not Soviets in the eighties, who were facing not just local resistance, but holy warriors from accross the muslim world, supported with American weaponry. And even so, Soviet casualties really were not that high, if one would compare them with second world war. It was just, that they could not wrap the war up, end it with final victory. And it was also a time of a deep crisis of the Soviet system, which was just years away from collapse.

So, Americans and their allies, would sooner or later emerge victorious and then make Afghanistan a base for spreading their influence further into Central Asia.

In October, 16 years will have passed since Americans launched their military operations in Afghanistan. War is not over yet. The Taliban control large parts of the country, even Islamic State has begun to expand its influence there, central government in Kabul seems inefficient, as do their security forces. All those billions of $ spent on building the Afghan army didn’t do much, to defeat he Taliban.

I remember, that many said at the beginning of the war, Taliban understood very well, they could not face Americans in open battle. That they needed to wait, to survive, fight here and there, so to keep the place on edge, and Americans and their allies would sooner or later lose the will to fight. And then they would come and take control of the country. It did not matter, how long that would take. 10 years. 16 years. 20 years.

US Forces in Afghanistan via Youtube

If that was their strategy all along, it was a smart one. Yes, of course, at the beginning of the so called war on terror, those promoting it, were full of determination. And people not just in the US, but across the western world, believed, something had to be done about the threat. In those times that threat had a familiar face, that of Osama bin Laden. There was some opposition, but it was weak. Yet, only two years latter, the united front, US managed to build, began to crack because of the war in Iraq and opposition to the so called war on terror grew. And then there were years and years of war. In Iraq and in Afghanistan. Lives lost, billions $ spent. Determination began to ebb.

Who can blame an average American or French, if after years and years of hearing about war in a country on the other side of the planet, he loses interest. Who can blame politicians, if they lose determination to fight to the end. After all, when will that end come and how will it look like? And then, aren’t there more pressing problems at home and is it not a bit arogant, trying nation building in a country so different, as Afghanistan is? Isn’t that just making things worse?

So, the Taliban slowly but surely edge closer to final victory.

At this moment, war in Afghanistan continues. Donald Trump seems a president capable of another surge, just like the one Obama initiated in his term. 20, 30000 more soldiers to defeat the Taliban and prevent Islamic State to implant itself in Afghan lands. Yet, will the result be any different? How long can this war go on?

Afghanistan has been in chaos long before Americans came and it will most likely be, after they and their allies leave. Unfortunately, it was the Taliban, who brought some stability, albeit a cruel one to the country, before they were ousted from Kabul in 2001. That could happen again. Or, after foreign forces finally abandon Afghanistan, it could just end with a civil war, with neither party poverfull enough, to take total control. What seems certain, is that there will be no happy ending. Not in the short term. Just more war and suffering.