The decade-long military and political engagement and hefty financial support from the United States, Afghanistan has changed considerably and is navigating on path to progress and development. An inadequate educational system that once reached no more than one million students has surged to ten million enrollments. A country that had no professional army now has 350,000 strong Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). The economy has been transformed and 16 commercial banks are functioning in the war-battered country today. But the task is not yet complete and much more needs to be done. There are many challenges facing the US and NATO member countries before celebrating the final going-away ceremony from Afghanistan.
As a native Afghan and served in the government there, I’m deeply appreciative of the sacrifices rendered by the international community, US military and people of my country.
But to be very frank, NATO member countries made a number of strategic blunders in the war against insurgency in the last decade. For example, the focus on the fight against insurgency was kept within the territory of Afghanistan, while the Taliban found safe havens elsewhere, primarily in Pakistan. Their hideouts in the area of Pakistani-Afghan border were secure and protected.
Comparatively, in 2014, the Taliban are more confident than they were in 2003. Now, the battle in Afghanistan is mobilized through diverse radical activists and equipped with more cutting-age war technology than ever. Taliban have great access to social media and are far more active on social media than their rivals.
The US and its war-allies plan to exit by the end of 2014, such a plan will only invite an unhappy outcome. It’s neither a wise nor a responsible exit strategy. But think: Between 2001 and 2014, 350,000 Afghan troops and 140,000 international troops of 46 countries could not overcome the Taliban.
Then how ill-equipped and ill-trained Afghan soldiers are expected to win over Taliban after 2014? Such an exit will only embolden insurgents, undermine Afghan morale and cripple the fragile Afghan economy. Such a sorry end to the Afghan war will only create more jihadist around the Mideast and the world.
The root cause of insurgency in Afghanistan is poverty. Some 42 percent of the Afghan population ekes out on a subsistence level of income. That’s where the Taliban recruit among those illiterate and poor youths who need money to survive and feed their families. As the planned US withdrawal draws closer, many are expected to join Taliban ranks for they will see no other options. The return ascendancy of the Taliban in Afghanistan will inspire radical movements everywhere.
I really worried about the future of my country, my family who live in Kabul while I study here in Phoenix.
The rise in sympathy among the Afghan refugees in Pakistan for ISIS ideology is also a wake-up call for the US and global community to consider and weigh carefully future risks. ISIS ideology, experienced Taliban forces and impoverished Afghan immigrants will make a volatile mix, perhaps as deadly and costly as the past decade.
Taliban are neither dismantled nor defeated as was suggested by President Obama. The fight is still ongoing. On average, 35 soldiers lose their lives daily in Afghanistan.
There is a huge possibility that the battle in Afghanistan will be globalized and endanger the stability of world once again, necessitating an inevitable return of US forces to Afghanistan.
The same strategic mistake of an early withdrawal from Iraq should not be repeated in Afghanistan, because a second compulsory war will be much more costly, bloody and exhausting.
The unhappy recent history in Iraq – a war of choice as some Americans have labeled– should not be repeated in Afghanistan, requiring another war of necessity. There is a better way, even if it requires patience.
I do not believe Americans should carry the burden of Afghanistan for too long, or even much longer but the weight they have bravely shouldered since 2001 should be allowed to bring to a logical and successful end.
IntizarKhadim is a Afghan communications specialist studying at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications as an International H. Humphrey Fellow.