The decision to help Afghanistan began with the premise that no nation should topple another, without engaging in the reconstruction that follows. Destruction without reconstruction is simply wrong.
The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 marked the beginning of the United States’ first significant commitment in Afghanistan. Anyone interested in the history of Afghanistan should read “Charlie Wilson’s War”, written by George Crile. The book chronicles what the author describes as the Central Intelligence Agency’s largest, most expensive and successful clandestine operation in history. The objectives of the operation were simple. Supply training and weapons to the mujahideen (“freedom fighters”) in support of their “jihad” (holy war) against the Soviet “infidels” and thereby “turn Afghanistan into the Soviet Union’s Vietnam”.
The United States along with other nations supplied billions of dollars of weapons to the warlords and mujahideen through Pakistan. Afghanistan became a checkerboard in the “cold war” upon which men chosen and trained by Pakistan waged war against the Soviets. By the time the Soviets were driven out of Afghanistan in January, 1989, the mujahideen were well trained, seasoned fighters, “armed to the hilt” with modern weaponry, and beholden to no external control. As many as 30,000 “holy warriors” traveled from other countries to join in the war.
Nine months after the Soviet Union was driven out of Kabul, the Berlin Wall “came down”. By December 1991, the Soviet Union ceased to exist. While historians may disagree on the extent, all recognize the impact the war in Afghanistan had on the outcome of the “cold war” and central Europe. The cost to Afghanistan included 1,500,000 lives and the creation of 5,000,000 Afghan refugees.
The United States “washed its hands of any responsibility” in Afghanistan as of 1993, when all humanitarian aid was withdrawn. “There were no roads, no schools, just a destroyed country”. Warlords, Islamic extremists, drug lords, and defenseless Afghans fought over what little remained.
On October 21, 2001 the United States invaded Afghanistan, following the tragic events of September 11, to search for Osama Bin Laden and Al Queda. Osama Bin Laden has been killed and the “exit strategy” is underway. The Afghan people have suffered the consequences of 35 years of war, over 23 of which we either financed or waged ourselves.
Our troops are being withdrawn. We must not abandon theAfghan people again, as was done in 1993. History has favored Americans with an opportunity to join with Afghans in remedying the consequences of wars waged in the country for over 35 years. We cannot reverse history. But, we can certainly embrace the role we have been invited to play. Under the circumstances, the least we should do is try.
Recommended Reading: Charlie Wilson’s War, by George Crile