Elias Atienza is a history junior and Mustang News opinion editor. The views expressed in this column do not reflect the viewpoints and editorial coverage of Mustang News.
Afghanistan is known as the graveyard of empires. Its historically isolated culture and topography made it difficult for infamous conquerors like the British, Arabs and the Soviet Union to hold the region. So why have we been there for 17 years?
When the United States military first went to Afghanistan in 2001, it was because they were hunting down a specific enemy. Osama Bin Laden killed 3,000 Americans and the United States sought justice. But after killing him in 2011, ten years after 9/11, we continued to pour troops and resources despite accomplishing the original goal.
It’s time to acknowledge that we will never win the war in Afghanistan. Senator Rand Paul knows this. President Donald J. Trump used to speak out against the war. Even Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that we may “never win” in a press conference last August.
The United States will never be able to declare victory in Afghanistan as long as we continue to have the same goal of uniting every single inch, nook and cranny under the Kabul regime. Only 56 percent of the country is under government control, with the rest contested by the Taliban and other insurgent groups. The Taliban is active in 70 percent of the country. This is after 17 years of continuous warfare, from the initial invasion, to the troop surges, to Trump sending 4,000 additional soldiers back into Afghanistan.
Neoconservatives want to continue this war until Afghanistan magically falls into the hands of the national government. They believe that unconditional surrender will come from a faction that has not been destroyed in 17 years of fighting. This is not World War II. It is the modern age.
Senator Paul wrote for Fox News, “If victory requires the disparate tribes and regional factions of Afghanistan to have more allegiance to a regime in Kabul than to their local tribal leaders, then victory will never come.”
We have spent at least $1 trillion on this war since it began in 2001. That $1 trillion figure does not begin to take into account the cost the war has had on the psyche and society of both America and Afghanistan.
The United States does not have a clear strategy for finishing this war. Like Vietnam, we are expected to continue to bleed for a regime that is corrupt and unstable. While the Taliban may never win, neither will we or the Afghan national government. It will continue to be a stalemate that will kill thousands on both sides for decades to come.
This is a war without end. It is a war that will continue to damage our people, assets and reputation across the world. Afghanistan is the graveyard of thousands of Americans, tens of thousands of Afghans and it’s where our empire went to die. It’s time to settle with the Taliban and other insurgent groups and bring our soldiers back home.
Maybe then we can throw that military parade the President wants.