The Afghanistan War is at the
center of a debate over whether the conflict is “winnable,” or
whether the United States and its allies would do better to
end the war.
The conflict arose in response to the attacks of September 11,
2001 on the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon,
and a third failed attack apparently targeting the White
House. These attacks, involving hijacked commercial airliners
used as suicide attack vehicles, sparked outrage around the
world. The U.S. was able to garner broad international support
for an invasion of Afghanistan, in contrast to the situation
it encountered when it invaded Iraq a few years later in 2003.
The invasion was justified on the grounds that it was
necessary to root out al-Qaeda, and to replace the Taliban
government, which was accused of providing support and safe
haven to that terrorist group. So, on October 7, 2001, the
United States and the United Kingdom launched Operation
Enduring Freedom with the stated aim of eliminating al-Qaeda
and its leader Osama bin Laden, and replacing the Taliban with
a democratic government.
Initially, the invasion was a complete military success. The
Taliban with its antiquated military equipment was unable to
engage in open battles with modern U.S. and U.K. forces
supported by advanced combat aircraft. The Taliban was removed
and a second military operation known as International
Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was established that brought
NATO forces into the conflict.
However, the invading forces were not able to eliminate Osama
bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network in Afghanistan. And
although they were able to oust the Taliban regime, the
organization was able to regroup and launch an insurgency
against the post-Taliban, Western-supported Afghan government.
After eight years of war, the situation in Afghanistan had not
been resolved, and instead is in a process of steady
deterioration when looked at from the standpoint of the NATO
operation. A close study of the factors influencing the war in
Afghanistan reveal that the United States and its allies
cannot achieve their stated goals in the country, and thus,
they should cut their losses and end the war. In order to
understand this reasoning, we should start by looking at the
history of relatively recent wars in Afghanistan starting with
the British conflict in the 19th century.