After 20 years of military involvement, we are finally leaving Afghanistan. It appears that the Taliban is poised to retake the country.
Was all this an exercise in futility – a waste of lives and resources?
I believe our decision to invade Afghanistan in 2001 was correct. The Taliban led government was hosting Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda militants, and they had just conducted a deadly strike against the United States. The Taliban leadership refused to help us root them out, so we had no choice but to attack. We were quickly successful in our military operations, the al-Qaeda base was destroyed, and its leaders went into hiding. At that point, we could have declared victory and brought our troops home. Instead, we morphed into a nation-building mode.
Afghanistan had suffered from some years of tyranny under repressive Taliban rule. These Islamic extremists strangled the nation with harsh religious rules, and many of the people lived in misery. Women and young females were especially vulnerable. The situation cried out for reform. Working with Afghan moderates and backed by our military force, we attempted to convert Afghanistan into a western style democracy. Despite short-term successes, the program of westernization was a failure. The hinterlands remained in Taliban control, and now that our military is being withdrawn there seems little doubt that the extremists will resume control of the entire nation. So long as they do not become a threat to our national security again, there is no good reason for us to re-intervene. Let the Afghans determine their own destiny.
If our leaders had studied history, perhaps they would have been less likely to get us so deeply involved. The Afghans deeply resent any foreign interference in their internal affairs, and they resist ferociously. Adding to the problem is their instinctive distrust of Western infidels. Over the years, both the British and the Russians learned these truths to their sorrow. Now, after 20 years of bitter experience, perhaps we have also learned this lesson