Column: Keeping it Real
The United States has been waging a war in Afghanistan for more than 18 years.
The cost of this “forever war” has been enormous. The conflict has killed thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Afghans, as well as costing the United States over $2 trillion, according to The New York Times.
In addition to this tremendous loss in American blood and treasure, the insurgent Taliban have doggedly defied the brute force of the American military and its compatriots. Despite years of fighting on the battlefield, the Taliban have held their own, ruling or contesting the majority of the country.
America has lost the Afghanistan War. We do not need a strategy to win, we need an exit strategy.
The President Donald J. Trump Administration has recently pushed through with a peace deal with the Taliban. Within 14 months, the U.S. military may leave Afghanistan, and the war may finally come to end.
This is a chance to finally bring our boys back home from thousands of miles away. But the deal has already come under criticism from the United States, and this criticism is threatening to undermine domestic support for the deal.
The biggest and most relevant criticism of the deal is how it deals with the Taliban. The peace deal depends on a “reduction of violence” from the United States, the Afghan government and the Taliban. The Trump Administration has kept classified the parts of the deal that determines what exactly is a reduction in violence, according to The New York Times.
Already the Taliban have launched attacks on Afghan government forces. The New York Times ran an Opinion piece by its editorial board criticizing the classified portions of the deal. It alleged that the classified sections were so vague that it gave the Taliban free rein, and that the American people deserve to have access to the secret sections.
This criticism is valid because the American people do deserve to know the full details of the deal, but it is unfortunately beside the point. The aim of the peace deal is to get American soldiers out of Afghanistan, not to continue to manage the country’s stability, which has proved fruitless.
Admittedly, the United States simply cannot force the Taliban to steadfastly abide by the rules of the deal. If the United States resorts to military retaliation, the Taliban can easily restart its insurgency in full again, and the same cycle of violence will continue to no avail.
The most significant criticism of the deal, though, is that it may leave the door open to the Taliban taking full control of Afghanistan. Because the Taliban are an Islamic fundamentalist group, this would mean that stringent Sharia law would be enforced, and that restrictions on women’s freedom would be substantially increased.
Given the Taliban’s ability to endure and launch offensives across much of the country, as well as the Afghan government’s inability to stop it, it is very likely that the Taliban will overrun Kabul and set up a theocratic government. This future possibility has deeply worried moralizing politicians and interventionists, such as Max Boot in The Washington Post.
The brutal reality is that the gains made in human rights in Afghanistan during the war were nebulous at best. Their implementation depended on the continual presence of American power in the country, which cannot last forever.
Afghanistan, after 18 years of war, is still not a shining democratic example in Central Asia. Although the United States shifted its goals from annihilating al-Qaeda to nation building, it has not been able to make Afghanistan substantially safer or more egalitarian.
This failure matches up with other American attempts to ostensibly spread democracy. One of the most popular and compelling rationales the United States gave for intervening in places like Iraq, Libya and Syria is that intervention would lead to democratization.
Like Afghanistan, all of these attempts have failed. Iraq has just finished fighting its war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) — which grew and thrived in the chaotic wake of the Iraq War — but its governmental stability is questionable with the recent protests and with Iran-U.S. tensions threatening to boil over.
The most the United States managed to do in Syria was arm Islamist radical groups, which has prolonged the civil war there to this day. Libya, the most dismal outcome of post-9/11 American wars, has descended into another civil war, in which slavery has made a depressing comeback.
It is important to remember that, despite its overwhelming military superiority, the United States is acting out of exhaustion. Leaving is no longer a choice, but a necessity. For too long America has been fighting a costly and ineffectual war in Afghanistan.
It is time for the United States to leave Afghanistan, and to spend its money on fixing this country.
Alexander Eid is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in journalism and media studies. His column, "Keeping it Real," runs on alternate Thursdays.
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