The mountainous region we know as Afghanistan has been the graveyard of empires since the days of Alexander the Great.
The British and Soviet empires, and now it seems the American too, are finding that rocky territory one of the world’s worst places to battle, whether the war is honorable or not.
Clearly, sending troops into Afghanistan was the right thing to do, when going after Al Qaeda and their Taliban supporters in 2001. But that’s not our only war zone today, and the war there seems to be expanding beyond Afghani borders into neighboring countries.
So do we expand our presence in Afghanistan, as requested by military leaders on the ground there, or yield to public sentiment by reducing our presence?
It seems that public sentiment is not always the right thing to follow, nor is the personal political or ethical mandates any leader, military or civilian may have.
What’s right is to rid the world of both the Taliban and Al Qaeda once and for all, and to stabilize Afghanistan. That’s going to take a massive increase in international military presence and a commitment to add tens of thousands of U.S. troops, with a view to long-term presence in the region.
The problems of the Afghan war are too vast to describe, but they boil down to that territory being one of the havens for criminal behavior, not only of a terrorist nature but of smuggling, drug manufacture and dealing and the like. The Russians learned this, and discovered too that the impact of drug money can be too alluring for the most civilized military leaders, with corruption happening all too frequently.
We need to change the way Afghanis do things, and show them profits can be made, in greater volume by alternative means than through opium production. One example of this is the pomegranate. The best pomegranates in the world are actually produced in Afghanistan, yet the number produced every year is so low that their exports are minimal. Most of the country’s opium fields could be converted to pomegranate, but it takes time and patience, not to mention money.
The same holds true for lamb and wool. Afghanistan has always been a producer of some of the best wool in the world, used for Afghan rugs locally, this can be exported and turned into a cash crop very easily. With its production, lamb, a favored staple of Afghan cuisine, could also be exported, just as they do in New Zealand and Australia, creating expanded markets for legitimate trading.
But from a more military perspective, American and international forces must increase their presence in Afghanistan and achieve victory over the Taliban and Al Qaeda. The consequence of failure or premature withdrawal from the region would have long-term negative impact on the United States and every one of our allies fighting there.
Just as the removal of American troops from Beirut gave rise to Islamic terrorists, allowing them the belief that superpowers can be defeated, and terrorism against America is routinely achievable resulting in the US Cole bombing and 9/11, leaving Afghanistan or failure to achieve our objectives would give rise to a new generation of terrorism and religious fundamentalism.
But a new wave of such fundamentalism or terrorism would have global impact as the new generation would be using nuclear weapons, not boats or jets.
It’s possible that defeat of America or our early departure from Afghanistan would cause problems for Pakistan, and seizure of part of their nuclear arsenal. Religious fervor could spread to Iran, now developing a nuclear weapons program and missile technology.
Without American strength to support balance in the Middle East, Iran would feel it has carte blanche rights to destroy Israel, potentially sparking World War III. Other extremists, in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Syria and Libya would also become motivated to launch attacks within the United States itself.
It is, we believe, in America’s best interests to follow the guidance from our military leaders in this case and increase troop strength, but also to complement that with civilian programs to increase Afghanistan’s trade, and to provide superb education that we may create a new generation of leadership for that war-torn nation.