It must have been a dark and dreary day yesterday at the Washington Post. Otherwise, why would they published an article predicting a dim future for Afghanistan? Why would they hare written that much of the allied gains will be subject to reversals in the months ahead? What will we ever tell the veterans of over ten years of Afghan conflict?
Most of us have been raised with visions of victory whenever the US fights on the side of what’s just. The most powerful country in the world must prevail if it sends its troops into action. Hmmm.
The ugly truth is that military force is transient, here today, gone tomorrow. Soon US forces will be reduced to much lower levels, allegedly by the end of 2014. This could be akin to former President Nixon’s secret plan to get out of Vietnam… simply declare victory and leave even though the enemy (North Vietnam) would take over the day we left. The most important aspect of Nixon’s “plan” involved leaving NO military behind.
Washington-types (military, think tankers, and many politicians) want to leave a residual force (maybe as high as 30,000) for training and rapid response purposes. A “status of forces” agreement has been negotiated but as yet not ratified by the Afghans. Justifications run a wide gamut… from interrupting drug trafficking to training to keeping an eye on the region.
Those opposed question the cost, the potential for further US deaths, and the futility of working with a largely illiterate, corrupt tribal population. Hmmm.
So to write a headline that casts a dim light and predicts that geographic gains might be reversed once troop levels are decreased borders on sophomoric. On what basis should anyone expect that lasting gains would have been made?
Our military and our DC politicians, of course, have a vested interest in describing our 10+ years Afghan odyssey as heroic and just. Hmmm. How about misguided and sad?
What will we tell our service men and women who sacrificed and accepted deployment and imminent danger in Afghanistan? How can we tell thousands of relatives that the loss of their loved one was a mistake or at least done without hope of sustained gain, for either the US or the Afghans?
Rooting out the Taliban government in 2001 for having operating as a failed State and harboring al Qaeta is relatively easy to understand and justify. Staying beyond the time necessary to oust the Taliban, and allowing mission creep to keep our troops there amongst rampant Afghan Government graft and corruption can only be seen as foolish at best and malfeasant at the worst. In any case, there is scant justification to remain.
A rewrite of the Post story might better carry the headline, “Ray of Sunlight as Afghan War Ends”. A sub headline would read, “Afghans Will Sort Out Their Future”.