Another quagmire

Violence can’t bring peace to Afghanistan

Feb 24, 2020 by

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Quagmires behave like they sound. Even in Afghanistan’s arid and stony environment, it is routine for invading empires to sink into the muck. From Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan to British, Soviet and American attempts, no invader has been able to control all of Afghanistan at once.

The United States and its NATO coalition made many people believe the longest war in American history had finally cracked the code. But the Dec. 9 Washington Post revelation of the “Afghanistan Papers” tore aside the curtain and laid bare decades of government deceit to show the war was going better in the news than it was on the ground. With no end in sight and the original motives largely forgotten, it’s time to give warmakers a break and peacemakers a turn to see what they can do with $52 billion, plus interest, the amount the U.S. spent in 2019 on the war in Afghanistan.

Donald Trump campaigned on a promise to bring military service members home, but his attention is fixated on domestic battles in Washington, where opponents have been mostly silent on Afghanistan. With an election looming, he returned to the topic of the 13,000 American service members in Afghanistan on Feb. 13 when he said, “We shouldn’t be there.”

If broken campaign promises aren’t enough, listen to veterans themselves. National Review reported Jan. 27 that Concerned Veterans for America — part of a network of conservative political action groups allied with Charles Koch — is calling for an end to the war.

“The fact that two-thirds of Afghanistan War veterans say this war isn’t worth fighting tells you everything you need to know about its futility,” said Nate Anderson, executive director of CVA, which is calling for political leaders to reassess how the U.S. handles foreign policy.

One way to do that would be to put a greater emphasis on dialogue and understanding. National Catholic Reporter reports the U.S. spent four years under the Obama administration developing the Office of Religion and Global Affairs at the State Department. Under Trump, the initiative to better understand the role of religion in settings like the Middle East was swiftly ended.

In mid-February a sign of hope emerged in the form of a potential one-week reduction-in-­violence agreement with the Taliban. This was billed as what could be a first step toward a more lasting peace agreement and withdrawal of forces. Previously, de-escalation has been delayed by a military-forward approach to diplomacy, but we hope for better results this time.

Factoring for inflation, the U.S. has spent more money rebuilding Afghanistan than it did in Western Europe under the Marshall Plan after World War II, with far less to show for it, other than at least 115,000 lives lost, more than 7,000 of them American service members.

The war’s supporters claim a military presence is needed to keep terrorists from rising up. If that’s still the case after this many years, it’s foolish to think a military solution will ever be achieved.


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