The Afghanistan War Remix: Operation Enduring Freedom
One winter night, a newly elected president called a meeting with a general he trusted. This president gave strict orders for the General to go to Kabul and find out– can this country win the war in Afghanistan? The general, who was a highly skilled military operative, had not previously been involved in the Afghan War.
After spending time in Kabul, the general returned to his boss, with a simple response: there was no way to win the war. Any chance of leaving with dignity relied solely on the country’s ability to close the Irani and Pakistani borders, thus preventing shipments of arms, and keeping the enemy trapped in Afghanistan. This was practically impossible since it required hundreds of thousands of additional troops to support a conflict that had dragged on for too long, and was losing considerable political support at home.
The president agreed. It was no longer a question the war had to end, it was about how. He kept saying to close associates that this was a previous administrations’ war, and the longer it lasted, it would become his war. Despite his complaints, and a general consensus by experts that the war was unwinnable; he continued to delay action.
To begin the exit plan, the president first had to meet with the man leading the Afghanistan government, so he summoned him to the capital. During a secret meeting, he made clear that by next summer, his troops would be out of Afghanistan, and the local leadership would need to defend their own cause. Despite controlling the capital and other cities, the rebel forces held a majority of the rural areas. The President’s military brass had also grown tired of supporting a leader, who everyone knew was “weak, capricious and indecisive.” In closing, the president gave the leader some parting words: “If you want to survive you’ll have to broaden the base of the regime. Make a deal with the truly influential forces in the country. Try to show the people some tangible benefits.”
Following the meeting, the president sternly told his staff, “it’s time to make a decision on Afghanistan.” He proceeded to read a series of heartfelt letters from mother’s of dead and wounded soldiers:
They ask: International Duty? in whose name?” Do the Afghan people really want it? Is it worth their lives of our boys, who don’t even know why they are sent there. What are they defending?
Sound familiar? Unfortunately, once again, our country failed to learn from past mistakes. The above anecdote is not from a recently discovered U.S meeting, but a story from when Gorbachev took power in the winter of 1986, which is described in Victor Sebestyen’s book, “Revolution 1989: The Fall of the Soviet Empire.” Fellow True/Slant blogger, Jonathan Curiel writes about how
“A country that has seen war and bloodshed for almost 10 years is still no closer to peace, despite billions of U.S. and international dollars that have poured in to rebuild Afghanistan.
And even worse, Americans know little about a war that has killed more than a thousand American troops, and thousands of more Afghanis. When the Soviets were contemplating a sound exit plan from Afghanistan, they promised to not leave the same way the U.S left Vietnam. Hopefully, our exit does not resemble Saigon, and maybe, if we had not skipped over the chapter on Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, we would never have sent troops there in the first place.