American’s longest war—Afghanistan—is still a mess. The Afghans still do not have the support they need to secure their villages. The central government is weak and not present where the fighting is most intense. We hear the limited discussion. What is it about Afghanistan that’s so annoying? It’s avoided in conversation on a national level. Why is this war so quickly forgotten? Warfighters remain in combat and are being killed.
Foreign Policy Magazine did a tour of Afghanistan and found sad results. Here’s what a local said about the security situation in Afghanistan: “There is no security. Our children are being killed,” says Habibullah, an elder from Abdul Hakim’s family. It’s sad to think the boys I met in Afghanistan very well may be dead today. We saw young boys forced to protect their village from the Taliban. These kids weren’t older than 12, yet they’re engaged in firefights with the Taliban. That stands in stark contrast with the average 30-year-old here in the U.S. We live in a society where people cower in fear of microaggressions. The boys and other Afghan local police are fighting for their lives from the moment they’re able to shoot a rifle.
Like Iraq, we bought ourselves some responsibility in Afghanistan. When President Obama announced the war in Afghanistan was over, it was disingenuous. The war rages on in Afghanistan. In some ways, it’s worse than it ever has been before. For Afghans, the war is far from over. Tell local Afghans who have taken up arms against the Taliban the war is over. If we were to leave like we did in Iraq, we’ll experience the same failure. Afghans hope senior U.S. decision-makers learn from the mistakes of Iraq. The world has seen what happens when we don’t take action. Iraq is an example, to a lesser extent. Afghanistan will go in the same direction. The fact that it is our longest war is immaterial given the fact that our work isn’t complete. Also, we have to stomach the reality that our work will go on. It may not be resolved in our lifetime, but the possible result is reshaping a country for the better. That impacts the world.
At a time when nations are questioning their allegiance to American democracy, when Western development models are brought under scrutiny, we cannot abandon those to whom we have given our word. Afghanistan is in a strategic position. They’re also in a deeply precarious situation. We have to finish this, but find a way to limit our loss of life. Does that mean more mercenaries or encouraging an inflow of foreign fighters to help the Afghans? I don’t know, but that prospect sounds equally scary as well.