The War in Afghanistan Still Makes No Sense

It’s been 17 years of unclear objectives, cultural missteps, and millions of dollars lost with no results — and no end

Photo: Zakeria Hashimi/AFP/Getty Images

Mission… Accomplished?

In the wake of 9/11, the U.S. and U.K. invaded Afghanistan to overthrow the ruling Taliban regime, which had been providing haven to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida. That initial objective proved easy enough. The Taliban was unseated in just 75 days, and al-Qaida operatives were scattered across the country’s vast hinterland that borders Pakistan.

Professor Amy Chua argues that by failing to account for the importance of ethnic identity in the land it was invading, the United States repeated the same key mistake in Afghanistan that had condemned it to defeat in Vietnam decades earlier.

The sad but obvious truth is that had 19 hijackers not successfully perpetrated the most audacious act of terror on American soil in living memory, Afghan girls would likely still be forbidden from receiving modern education today.

Do Your Homework

In her essay “Tribal World” for Foreign Affairs magazine, professor Amy Chua argues that by failing to account for the importance of ethnic identity in the land it was invading, the United States repeated the same key mistake in Afghanistan that had condemned it to defeat in Vietnam decades earlier.

Blood and Treasure

The human cost of the Afghan adventure has been staggering. If and when statistics of the war’s casualties receive public attention, they’re almost always those of Western forces: over 3,500 coalition fatalities as of 2018, more than 2,400 of whom were American, and over 20,000 injuries to U.S. troops.

Source: Politico

Backsliding

Perhaps the dimmest news of all, though, is that the progress made over the years appears to be reversing, which could end up making the war’s human and financial sacrifices all for naught. SIGAR’s quarterly reports in April and July of 2018 show that insurgents have made significant gains over the last two years. From January 2016 to May 2018, the share of districts that the Afghan government controlled or influenced fell from 71 percent to 56 percent. Insurgents, meanwhile, now contest or control 43 percent of the country, the most since the war began in 2001.

The graveyard of empires

As with any quagmire, mission creep has seized hold of the campaign in Afghanistan. Wesley Morgan writes in Politico magazine:

2018 winner of the Dalton Camp Award for essay-writing. M.A. Political Science. I'll go to the mat for the Oxford comma.

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