The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Saturday, January 13, 2018


Whenever I think of Afghanistan, I think of the truly wonderful novel, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. It begins by describing the travails of an Afghan boy trying to navigate the challenges of his culture and country during the Soviet invasion in the late 1980s. The Kite Runner is a story of guilt and redemption, describing the good that can come out of the immigrant experience. But it also provides a portrait of the violent and tumultuous events that led to the rise of the Islamist Taliban and the general breakdown of order.

Today, Afghanistan is broken—irreparably, irretrievably broken. The United States has spent almost two decades in the Afghanistan and accomplished little except to lose lives and spend billions. George W. Bush did the right thing when he invaded Afghanistan in an attempt to eliminate al Qaida after 9/11. But he made a horrific mistake when he was convinced by neocons to stay and attempt nation-building. It is difficult to build a nation in a place that is a cesspool of violence, corruption, tribal animosities, Muslim on Muslin warfare and much more. Barack Obama was correct in trying to extricate us from Afghanistan, but his feckless attempts to do so failed. The GOP and the military were dead wrong when they pressured him to remain. To date, Donald Trump is following much the same flawed path.

Daniel L. Davis writes:
Lost under the growing headlines related to the North Korean nuclear program, America’s permanent war in Afghanistan continues its aimless drift. Effectively hidden from public view, the war remorselessly chews up American service members and tens of billions of dollars in national treasure, while no longer contributing to U.S. security. The latest developments serve to deepen the futility.

Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), said the introduction of additional U.S. troops and more relaxed rules of engagement authorized by President Trump would help to “focus on offensive operations,” and help Afghan troops, “gain the initiative very quickly” as fighting enters 2018. One must wonder, however, how long Congress and the American people will continue believing these unrealistic, “victory is just around the corner” declarations from its senior commanders.

In April 2005, then-commander Lt. Gen. David Barno said that over the coming year he saw “much of the (Taliban), probably most of it, I think collapsing and rejoining the Afghan political and economic process.” Far from collapsing, however, the Taliban rebounded to such a degree that four years later, Gen. Stanley McChrystal famously warned President Obama that without massive reinforcements, America’s fight against the Taliban “will likely result in failure.”

Gen. David Petraeus followed McChrystal in command of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, assuring the American people in congressional testimony that we were “on the right azimuth” to victory. At the end of his deployment in 2013, Gen. Petraeus’ successor, Gen. John Allen, went so far as to claim the U.S. coalition had triumphed, saying “(t)his is victory. This is what winning looks like, and we should not shrink from using these words.”
None of the claims made by military leaders have been realized, and we stumble forward, slide sideways, and often pull back two steps for every one step forward.

It's time to admit our mistake and leave—permanently and completely. Yes, it can be argued that the lives lost will have been wasted, and yes, carnage will undoubtedly ensue, but that's not for our lack of trying. The Afghans want to be control of their own destiny. Let them.