Just three decades ago Afghanistan was a prosperous and perhaps even secular nation. Today there is little to resemble anything of prosperity in Afghanistan except for those who make their living off of the opium trade.
Since the Soviet invasion in 1979, which many believe was a political coup to overthrow the Afghan government, the country has seen strife among its inhabitants. After 1989, when the Soviets left, civil unrest opened doors for individuals like Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda. The Taliban which originally was a student movement aided by money and supplies from its neighboring country, Pakistan, helped bin Laden rise to power.
Since Sept.11, 2001 America has attempted to restore some type of stability to a country fraught with civil unrest through our efforts with allied forces. In 2004, Hamid Karzai won the election stating he hoped to cooperate and restore Afghanistan to a peaceful nation. One wonders if this is a little like stating one believes in the right to life while shooting a doctor who performs an abortion. Karzai again claimed to have won re-election in 2009 although fraud was evident and substantial regarding tilting the election in his favor. American officials responded with enough pressure to force a run-off election however by that time Karzai’s opponent had chosen to withdraw from the race because of the fraud and deceit associated with his opponent.
Less than a month ago, American troops provided security throughout the areas of the country where parliamentary elections were being held. It is believed some 2500 individuals were running for less than 250 positions. The soldiers faced ambushes at every turn and yet reports of fraud in this election have also surfaced.
This is a country where Sharia Law in its strictest sense can stone or flog a woman for a variety of offenses; a country where little over 28% of the total population can read or write, a country that has recently resorted to filling schools girls attend with poisonous gas, a country where life expectancy may not even reach age 50, where it can take weeks to reach some areas because of poor infrastructure. This is a country where you can become a friend with a third cup of tea but may be lied to or left for dead when the same group of individuals with whom you share your chai, help the insurgents camouflage their IED’s. Afghanistan is a study in the contrasts of progess…one step forward and three steps back. People support the Taliban because the Taliban provides just enough for them to live one more day.
So after nine years, what is America to do about Afghanistan? We have sacrificed lives of some of our best and brightest in the name of peace. We have placed our husbands, fathers, sons and grandsons into an area whose both culture and terrain are more alien to us than perhaps even another planet. It is difficult to try and comprehend just what we hope to do when it becomes undone at each turn of our back.
I am not an idealist but I do want to see another country’s children have a future, but perhaps no longer at the hands of my own country’s children. I want to live in a safe country far from the fear of another terror attack but I know if not bin Laden, there will always be another group, another maniacal egoist, another sect or another insurgent that will rise up and clamor for a peace that can never be guaranteed.
I am more than grateful for those who have gone to Afghanistan and endured conditions worse than mankind can imagine for my security and my freedom but I wonder if our efforts in Afghanistan are a lot like trying to empty the ocean one cup of water at a time.
You see, I know someone in Afghanistan. He obeys what he is told to do and has so far survived what men twice his age might never want to imagine and I know that his life can never be the same because of that. Like so many men and women, he has left a young spouse and a baby to do a job that becomes bigger than life daily.
It’s easy to say that we shouldn’t give up on Afghanistan when you aren’t the one dodging IE D’s, bullets and the sound of a Kalashnikov. Easy to want us to bring some sense of normalcy to this country when you don’t have to sleep on some barren floor with your body frozen against your fatigues or battling a tsunami of a sand storm just to do it all over again another day.
Soldiers fought in wars before but this is different. This is not a war it is a catastrophe…for us and for the Afghan people.
So what do we do now in Afghanistan? Most of our allies have abandoned ship, yet as much as we train the Afghan National Army they are little ready to stand up to the terrorist groups on their own.
Our government has dealt with the civil unrest in many nations; El Salvador, Cambodia, Viet Nam. Did the situation in those countries improve because or in spite of our efforts and is it time to ask the same of Afghanistan and instead of asking our young men and women to be all they can be, let what will be…be?