Afghanistan 12 Years In: Corruption, "Civil War," and the Release of a Taliban Commander For Peace

no final frontierUS Air ForceWhile the US improvs its way toward military intervention in Syria, the US war in Afghanistan is approaching its 12 year mark. There have been 2,144 US combat deaths since the start of military operations in 2001, with more than 70 percent coming under the Obama Administration. President Obama entered office campaigning on Afghanistan as the “good war,” and eventually dithered into a surge of 30,000 troops at the end of 2009. The Obama Administration failed to capitalize on any momentum created by the surge to seek a diplomatic solution. Indeed the White House team did its best to thwart attempts by diplomats like Richard Holbrooke, the US envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan at the beginning of Obama’s first term, to seek a diplomatic solution and political exit from Afghanistan.

Instead, the US continues to rely on spending money to make political progress in Afghanistan; nearly $100 billion has been spent by the US on “development” in the country, yet US authorities haven’t even implemented the basic anti-corruption measures they themselves crafted. The US finally came aboard a peace process earlier this year, though it didn’t stop President Obama from pressuring the outgoing Afghan president Hamid Karzai to consent to the presence of US troops in Afghanistan past 2014, a date Obama’s set for “withdrawal” and the year Karzai is supposed to be replaced in elections. Pakistan agreed earlier this week to release the Afghan Taliban’s number two commander, who the CIA helped capture in 2010, something apparently seen by both Afghan and American officials as helpful to bring the Taliban on board peace talks.

Three years ago, when US troops were in the midst of a surge in Afghanistan, was the time to try a peace process, Holbrooke and others argued. The US military was making gains, clearing areas of Taliban and other extremists, but those gains could not be permanent without a permanent US presence. They could have been used, however, to exercise leverage in any negotiated withdrawal. Instead the surge came and went without much political effort expended to support it. The president’s set a 2014 withdrawal deadline he says doesn’t mean there won’t be any troops left in Afghanistan after then.  There’s an election scheduled in Afghanistan next year too, one the Taliban has said is irrelevant, accusing the US in advance of controlling it. Karzai, meanwhile, summoned a US diplomat over his comments that Afghanistan was in the throes of a “civil war.”

So the US continues to run military operations in an Afghanistan that may be in a civil war, to spend money on its corrupt government, to try to jump-start a peace process, and to continue to insists it’s leaving but also staying in the country past 2014. In all this, the Obama Administration appears more interested pushing an “unbelievably small” military action in Syria because US credibility is apparently on the line when a dictator allegedly uses chemical weapons a lot more than it is over a nearly generation long war with no end in sight in Afghanistan.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • CampingInYourPark||

    Sorry to shit on the post but this is just too funny

    "Boston airport apologizes for drill on 9/11"

    http://www.myfoxny.com/story/2.....ill-on-911

  • Sevo||

    Isn't Bush out of office? How's he still running this war?

  • ||

    Uh, hello, Bush sent all those troops there to begin with, so everything is still his fault. Idiots. Plus, Obama saying that it was a good war made me feel all warm and fuzzy, gotta love him.

  • Drake||

    I still don't understand why we didn't leave by 2004. I guess I wasn't paying attention. One day I assumed we were wrapping it up and about to pull out the light infantry we had fought the war with. Then I see medium Stryker brigades being shipped over there and I knew we were going to fuck it up and stay forever.

  • ||

    We didn't leave by 2004 because in order to get domestic liberals and our "allies" on board we made this about turning Afghanistan into a modern western style liberal democracy.

    This meant that instead of making a punitive strike against the Taliban to send them the message that harboring AQ, or any group hostile to American interests in the future would be met with more of the same we undertook regime change and nation building.

    The only reason we had for "boots on the ground" was to hunt down as many AQ operatives, including, if possible, OBL and generally eliminate them from the country.

    Now, we are left with the situation of having spent ten years worth of lives and treasure keeping a bunch of kleptocrats, who are arguably no better than the Taliban, in power and having to face the fact that without our support the current government will fall to an invigorated Taliban within six months thus leaving us worse off than if we had simply mounted a quick punitive expedition which would have left a chastened Taliban in power while removing AQ and left.

  • ||

    By our "allies", of course, I refer to all those countries which when they are not complaining about American intervention somewhere are complaining about American failure to intervene somewhere else.

  • Drake||

    The Dem allies who were screaming about "blood for oil" by 2005? Our allies like the Italians and Spanish who left with every round of ammo they brought?

    Bush should have told all of them and Karzi to fuck off.

  • Raston Bot||

    So we're still there just to prop up a failed, ineffectual, corrupt government. Got it.

  • Sevo||

    Yeah, but it's still Bush's fault.

  • CAB||

    For a very up close look at what is going on in Afghanistan check out Vice's documentary "This is what winning looks like" :

    http://www.vice.com/vice-news/.....ike-part-1

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement