In the aftermath of 9/11 the United States intervention in Afghanistan was somewhat a no-brainer. The Taliban regime had provided a safe haven for Al-Qaeda and would not (or could not) surrender Osama Bin Laden and his followers. So strong was the global outrage at the attack on the twin towers that NATO whole heartedly supported the United States toppling the Taliban and provided troops as peacekeepers.

As we all know, the opportunity was squandered. Worried about casualties the United States never committed enough boots on the ground. It first relied on the Northern Alliance to do the fighting on the ground, a motley crew that contained many warlords with horrendous human rights records. The limited American presence on the ground probably helped Osama Bin Laden escape from Tora Bora. Having toppled the Taliban with ridiculous ease, the Bush administration then pursued the Iraq invasion squandering global goodwill and failing to secure the peace.

With limited boots on the ground the United States relied instead on hitting the Taliban with air strikes from remote controlled drones. The civilian casualties caused by mistaken strikes sapped the goodwill that ordinary Pashtuns had to the United States for getting rid of the Taliban.

During his presidential campaign, Barack Obama promised to expand the military presence in Afghanistan and delivered shortly after taking office. A further review was promised after the Afghan presidential election. The leaking of General McChrystal report calling for more troops caused a firestorm in Washington in last month. The left is increasingly tired of spilling blood in Afghanistan without an end point. Some commentators on the right, notably George Will, have joined in. Eager to show themselves as being strong on terror the Republican Party has generally lined up behind the General’s uniform.

As the President and his advisors confer on the next course, it must be asked, what does the United States hope to achieve in Afghanistan? What is the United States fighting for. Commentators such as Fareed Zakaria have noted that the Afghan war is not at present a war with Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda is holed up in its Pakistani hideouts and has not made a major comeback in Afghanistan. The war in Afghanistan is essentially the next round of the civil war that has plagued the country since the toppling of the monarchy in the 1970s. Read the rest of this entry »

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