Afghanistan is the longest war in American history After the terrorist attacks on September 11th 2001 America and its allies invaded the country The Taliban, the hardline Islamist group that ruled over Afghanistan had sheltered al-Qaeda and its leader, Osama bin Laden Nearly 20 years later, the conflict has achieved very little
It’s a country in ruin the Taliban still controls much of it And the war is showing no signs of slowing down So, levels of violence are enormous In 2018, 25,000 people died in Afghanistan So what has made America’s war in Afghanistan unwinnable?
Afghanistan has been mired in conflict for over 40 years
In 1979 the Soviet Union invaded the country to support the Afghan communist regime In response, America funded mujahideen rebels to fight the Soviet forces. as part of an American proxy war
In 1989 Soviet forces withdrew from Afghanistan which sparked years of infighting among tribal warlords The chaos created fertile ground for the Taliban to grab power And in 1996 they took control of Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital and established themselves as the government in much of the country Three years after the American invasion
in 2001 democratic elections were held in the country But neither military reinforcement nor peace talks have ended the fighting So every president in their own way has tried to win the war in Afghanistan They’ve put troops in They’ve taken troops out None of them have really managed to… …fundamentally change the course of the war itself
President George W. Bush US President 2001 to 2009 said that
My fellow citizens events in Iraq have now reached the final days of the decision.
President George W. Bush pulled resources away from Afghanistan.. to focus on his war in Iraq
In one of the most difficult decisions that I’ve made as president…
Barak Obama President US President 2009 to 2017 said that
I ordered an additional 30,000 American troops into Afghanistan President Barack Obama put huge amounts of troops into Afghanistan.
To try and knock the Taliban into a deal to try and win the war there And the American presence hasn’t been all bad For all the good they’ve done allowing girls to go back to school creating a democratic government there’s no real sense in which much of that can survive beyond the period in which the Americans leave and the funds dry up That’s because the Taliban are now in control of more of Afghanistan since 2001 Today almost 18% of all Afghan districts are under Taliban control and 48% are contested How have they been able to extend their power?
The Taliban don’t have military might They don’t have warplanes or tanks or advanced equipment What they do have is local legitimacy they have persuaded many people that their version of swift Islamic justice is more legitimate than the corrupt Afghan government
And they have been propped up by neighbouring Pakistan Some people will say Pakistan, which helped form the Taliban in the early 1990s was too committed to helping their Islamist allies survive They sheltered the Taliban leadership in Pakistan
They gave arms and weapons to the Taliban to help them gain support in Afghanistan There is also drug money 90% of the world’s heroin comes from Afghanistan and this is a strong source of funding for the Taliban Opium has been a big part of the war, it’s been part of the conflict economy The profits help fund them making the Taliban one of wealthiest armed non-state groups in the world Efforts to destroy the opium crop effectively destroyed the livelihoods of farmers and in some cases made them more sympathetic to the Taliban And more hostile to the government the Americans installed after 2001
People will say that the West created an overly centralised domineering state in Afghanistan run by an overly powerful president who didn’t pay attention to the ethnic, tribal, social heterogeneity of the country I think all of these were reasons But I think it’s also the case that no big counter-insurgency campaign with lots of troops has ever really worked in a society like Afghanistan in recent years Is it time for America to leave?