1. From the very beginning of the war, it was obvious that the U.S. nation building mission in Afghanistan was going to be a failure, just as the Soviets and every other foreign power had failed there in the past.
2. In 2001, we failed to kill Osama bin Laden and he escaped into the tribal areas of Pakistan, although only a fool would believe that he had no help from the government and intelligence services of that country.
3. After all, they created the Taliban in the first place and have been assisting them all along, so there seems no reason to doubt that the will do so again once most of the American troops are gone. Fortunately, we were able to kill bin Laden last year, although that was no thanks to any assistance from our so-called ‘ally in Pakistan.
4. Thesis Nothing about the Afghanistan War is positive either for that country or for the United States and the war is a complete waste of lives and treasure, and the country is basically a corrupt, dysfunctional failed state. Its institutions hardly extend beyond Kabul and the population feels no loyalty to them or enthusiasm for the war effort (DV). At best all the U.S. has accomplished there is a temporary reprieve from Taliban rule, when Afghanistan was used as a base for attacks against the West (IV). The U.S. does not do nation building very well in any case, and even if it did, Afghanistan would be about the least promising material imaginable to make such an experiment, given that it was hardly ever a unified nation to begin with.
Several generations of children have grown up in Afghanistan experiencing nothing but war, just like the adolescent mujahideen fighting at Tora Bora in 2001 who did not even know their own ages, were poorly armed, fed and clothed, and lacked even the most basic medical care. They did not believe this was their war then nor do their successors believe it today. As for the Americans, when they first arrived they were content to remain the manipulators behind the scenes, not trusting their Afghan ‘allies’ and strongly distrusted by them. Their main concern was to kill bin Laden and the Al Qaeda Arabs and at Tora Bora they wanted them “dead immediately” (Stack 26). When this did not happen and bin Laden fled into Pakistan, they suspected that the Afghan warlords had been bribed to help them make their escape.
A. Current Situation in Afghanistan—No real improvement
This reality of the ground has hardly changed at all in the past eleven years. Ordinary Afghans have no real incentive to fight in this war for a corrupt government that is negligent of their needs and whose officials seem eager to escape the country with their ill-gotten gains once the foreigners are gone.
B. Afghanistan cannot even be considered an electoral democracy with free and fair elections given the rampant corruption of the political process. In 2008 Freedom House described the country as partially free in the area of political rights and civil liberties, although this is being quite generous (Democracy Lecture).
C. It has a Sunni Muslim majority, but is heavily divided by tribal, ethnic and regional differences, such as the Pashtuns in southern Afghanistan and northern Pakistan who are hostile to the central government (Ethnicity and Nationalism Lecture).
D. In every way, the war and the entire nation-building exercise have been a complete waste and failure. Warlords, corrupt officials and well-paid foreign contractors and consultants still live in “sumptuous headquarters” while most of the common people are below subsistence level, hungry, poor and illiterate (Stack 18).
E. One journalist who visited the country in 2011 for the first time in six years saw “no discernible improvement in conditions during the time I had been away” (Hamilton-Little 2011). This war has been a catastrophe for Afghanistan and a failure in every respect, as is the entire nation building project. Billions in aid money has been stolen by government officials and foreign contractors who pocket the funds for work that is never done, and the entire regime of Hamid Karzai is flagrantly corrupt from top to bottom.
F. Eighty percent of the adult population is illiterate and half the children receive no education of any kind, while schools lack even paper and textbooks and teachers go unpaid for months.
Few foreigners ever go to Afghanistan these days and the ones who do stay in high-security compounds in Kabul, but any Afghans who have the money to do so are fleeing the country in large numbers. Buildings and towns destroyed during the last thirty years were never rebuilt and foreign aid and public works projects hardly seem to exist in reality. As Stack observed in 2001, “everyone struggles in harsh conditions. They don’t care who wins the war” (Hamilton-Little 2011).
Very little has changed in Afghanistan over the past eleven years, except possibly for the worse. Aside from the one success of killing bin Laden in 2011, all of the conditions that existed in Afghanistan in 2001 are the same today, including the corruption of the warlords, the poverty and despair of the common people or the lack of education and opportunities for women and children. Just the opposite, the situation has probably grown even worse, except for the corrupt elites who regard this endless war as a lucrative business and source of profit.
Hamilton-Little, Magsie. Back to Afghanistan. The Daily Beast, October 6, 2011.
Stack, Megan K. Every Man in this Village is a Liar: An Education on War. Doubleday, 2010.