Afghanistan: This is What I Have to Say

     Lord Ashdown, of the British House of Lords, says the war in Afghanistan is “lost”. On his reasoning, as an American, I can agree, but in his characterization, I cannot. It can be said that we are wasting our time in Afghanistan. It can be said that American lives are unnecessarily lost as we dither on our withdrawal. But it cannot be said that we “lost” in Afghanistan because no one could ever describe “victory”. Did we dismantle the Taliban? Yes. Did we disrupt and damage the ability of Al Qaeda to operate? Yes. Did we kill Osama Bin Laden? Yes. Can we guarantee that Afghanistan won’t return to the way it was or that the Taliban won’t return with new membership to seize power or that Al Qaeda won’t return from the ashes? No — and we never could.
     The U.S. went into Afghanistan with one thing in mind and that was payback. I’m not saying that we did not, in the short term, defend the U.S. from further terrorist attacks, but we did not go in with a plan beyond getting Al Qaeda and we certainly didn’t have a plan for a realistic withdrawal. We didn’t consider the tribal nature of the country, the ethnic divisions, or what the people of Afghanistan wanted. Democracy is not a concept you just drop on people and expect them to embrace or accept. And to think that the country of Afghanistan will turn out just the way the U.S. wants it to is the height of arrogance and foolishness.
     If our involvement in Afghanistan makes countries take a harder look at the activities of militant groups or makes the lives of women better in these places where they are denigrated or severely abused, then we have done some good. But can we guarantee even these remedies will persist? No. But to say we “lost” is no more true than to say we “won”. We simply have done what we could reasonably do and now it is long overdue for us to leave. The future is in the hands of the people of Afghanistan.

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