What did the US accomplish from the invasion of Afghanistan?

Published: February 27, 2014

Afghanistan is still one of the world’s most impoverished nations and it has one of the highest numbers of internally and externally displaced refugees. PHOTO: AFP

The year 2014 has marked the start of NATO’s withdrawal of its combat troops from Afghanistan, 12 years after the war against al Qaeda and the Taliban began, in the autumn of 2001.

Many explanations were given as to why the invasion of Afghanistan was vital – from the necessity of finding and punishing the perpetrators of 9/11, to liberating Afghan women and eradicating the opium trade. Time and again, politicians and the media tried to legitimise the war in the eyes of the public.

We were told in the weeks following 9/11 that the invasion was an act of self-defence, by former US president George W Bush and his administration; they stressed that it was not a retaliatory move. Whether the invasion was legally or morally justified is a lengthy and time consuming affair, but whether it has been a success can be determined by the facts.

Women’s rights

There seems to be little in the way of positive things to say about the perceived ‘accomplishment’ of the invasion. Yes, the Taliban’s grasp on power in Afghanistan’s major cities is dwindling and, in these cities, there is more freedom available to women who would otherwise be confined to their homes. We find that there is a greater opportunity for girls to pursue an education in these cities, than elsewhere in the country but, unfortunately, this is where all commendation of Nato’s endeavours end.

Opium

There has been an exponentially sharp rise in the production of opium, despite offers of ‘subsidies’ given to farmers who refrain from producing opium. This is hardly an appealing offer, if the yield of opium and the optimum climate Afghanistan provides for its cultivation is taken into consideration, as well as the vast profit that can be made from it.

The Taliban’s control

The Taliban’s hold on the south has also been hard to remove. British forces have suffered severe casualties in both Kandahar and Helmand provinces as of late, and in Herat province the Taliban still have a lofty presence.

Osama bin Laden

One could argue that the whole operation has been in vain, as Osama bin Laden was killed almost 10 years after the invasion of Afghanistan. Bin Laden was not found in the Hindu Kush Mountains between Afghanistan and Pakistan, where US intelligence thought he was hiding, but rather in the quiet and scenic area of northern Pakistan.

Similarly, now that the US is intent on dialogue with the Taliban, it begs the question, were such draconian steps necessary in combating extremism in the first instance?

Add this to al Qaeda’s ever-growing presence in Yemen, Syria and the Maghreb region, and the whole operation seems futile. However, lambasting the invasion itself won’t do much to solve problems on the ground for the average, working Afghan.

Afghanistan’s conditions

Afghanistan is still one of the world’s most impoverished nations and it has one of the highest numbers of internally and externally displaced refugees. The level of literacy is still extremely low and the country ranks high on global corruption indexes.

But funnelling funds into the country in the form of aid projects won’t rectify these problems, if the head honchos in Kabul are not held accountable for any aid-related discrepancies. Similarly, neglecting the need for more female medical practitioners, who can help solve the country’s high mortality rate, partly due to the lack of education available to women, will not lead to much progress.

The education crisis facing Afghanistan’s women will not be solved, unless the government looks to advise rural communities about its importance and necessity for the growth and prosperity of Afghanistan.

Afghans themselves also need to make a concerted effort to form a unified Afghanistan, where a Pakhtun is not superior over an Uzbek, nor an Uzbek or Tajik over a Hazara. This way of thinking needs to become a priority for Afghan politicians, especially those running for the general election this year, as well as for the high-ranking military personnel.

Afghans need to be considered an integral part of Afghanistan and they should feel a sense of brotherhood and belonging. This will go a long way in preventing a repeat of the bloody civil war, which ravaged the country in the 1990s.

A failed state?

Having noted the above, it is very simple to just write off Afghanistan as a ‘failed state’, without contextualising the reasons as to why the country is in turmoil. It is essential to analyse these reasons in order to understand which mechanisms should be implemented to allow for Afghanistan and its people to flourish.

If the years of colonialist meddling, attempted land grabbing, insincerity from neighbouring countries and corruption within the Afghan establishment are considered and acknowledged as contributory factors to blame for Afghanistan’s current state, it becomes easier to comprehend why Afghanistan is still finding its feet and struggling to blossom into the free and prosperous country its people long for it to be.

Rabia Khan

Rabia Khan

A British Kashmiri law student, with an interest in Afghanistan and Central Asia. As of September she will be undertaking an MA in Human Rights Law. She tweets @RabiaKashmiri (twitter.com/RabiaKashmiri)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Bouncing Betty

    Transforming a country with a 7th century mindset to a society with a 21th one in just 12 years is always going to be tricky. Not just for Afghanistan, but for every country.

    In stead of looking what all went possible wrong through ‘colonialist meddling’, maybe we should look at some of the positive results. Child mortality took a serious nose dive -Pakistan had a lower infant mortality than Afghanistan in 2001, now Afghanistan has a lower figure-. The Taliban did not allow women to get an education and they did not allow them to get jobs. Furthermore, prostitution increased under the Taliban. Many women had no other way to feed themselves or their children. Women had no medical treatment under the Taliban because male doctors were not allowed to see them and women are not allowed to get educations to become doctors. Life expectancy of Afghan women has risen very sharply.

    Please read this informative article: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/02/11/to-see-the-progress-in-afghanistan-stop-viewing-the-country-through-a-western-lens.html

    I am afraid though that the ‘little progress’ that happened in Afghanistan, will be undone when the NATO pulls back. You cannot change a mindset with a military solution. Transforming a tribal society takes time. A lot of time. More importantly, it needs reformers. I don’t see them.Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    haha awesome.Recommend

  • gp65

    US is not responsible for solving all of Afghanistan’s problems nor was that the purpose. It wanted to send a clear unambiguous response that an attack on US would result in a disproportionate response. It succeeded in doing so and there have been no recurrences in the last 12+ years.
    The Al Qaeda and Afghan Taliban have been degraded and most importantly even if afghan Taliban come to some type of power in a power sharing arrangement in Afghanistan post 2014, they will probably be less likely to harbor Al Qaeda and take the extreme measures that they were taking in their earlier regime. The US is a safer place now and that was the goal which was sought to be achieved and it has been achieved succesfully.Recommend

  • https://www.facebook.com/shail.arora.589 Shail Arora

    While we are at the subject, I would also encourage readers to read “My Life with Taliban”, by Abdul Salam Zaeef. Although it’s a one sided account, being an autobiography, it does give a perspective on how things have shaped since the 70s.Recommend

  • Malaika

    The war wasn’t going to achieve anything. That was clear from the start, when the U.S. started bombing the place senselessly. The bombing campaign made everyone angry, including leading anti-Taliban leaders like Abdul Haq.

    Malalai Joya, one of the leading feminists in the country, protested against the invasion from the start. And RAWA, the oldest and largest women’s rights group in Afghanistan, has condemned the United States, too. Their argument is that democracy can’t be achieved through military occupation, and that makes sense. These women have the most to lose if the Taliban were ever to gain power, so hearing them speak out against the occupation is really something!Recommend

  • Haris Javed

    It was all about economy. It was a resource war.. .

    In 2010, “previously unknown and untapped mineral reserves” were estimated at 1 TRILLION $ including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium. Last week Afghan mining minister said, mineral deposits could be worth up to 3 TRILLION $$$, tripling US estimates.. .

    US military bases in Afghanistan are also intent upon protecting the multi billion narcotics trade. Narcotics, at present, constitutes the centerpiece of Afghanistan’s export economy. The heroin trade, instated at the outset of the Soviet-Afghan war in 1979 and protected by the CIA, generates cash earnings in Western markets in excess of $200 billion dollars a year.

    In addition to vast mineral and gas reserves, Afghanistan produces more than 90% of world’s supply of opium that is used to produce to grade 4 heroine.

    Basically US was never there under “doctrine of collective security”. It was all about economy.. .Recommend

  • Sonia K

    Most accounts are one-sided….the one given by NATO or America is also one-sided but some how it is appreciated and acceptable…. but if a Taliban gives one….. it is necessary to state ‘it is a one-sided account’….. seriously?Recommend

  • Sonia K

    All the facts and figures are correct ….. but all the low down figures are true for any other country in the sub-continent…. women have fewer privileges and fewer rights…. and its not just women…. its men too who have fewer privileges to bring in change…

    Tribes have always had their own set ways…. sorry to say but killing off the Red Indians and taking over their land is the way America did it and that is way over the 7th century…. and bringing that kill mill mindset (cheap century mindset that ran on money) to Afghanistan was the one big mistake…. Afghans are NOT Red Indians!Recommend

  • Supriya Arcot

    Hmmmm good analysis . All said and done I feel this war was for Afghanistan’s own good . If nothing , then at least the world became aware of their plight .Recommend

  • Supriya Arcot

    Hmmmm good analysis . All said and done I feel this war was for Afghanistan’s own good . If nothing , then at least the world became aware of their plight .Recommend

  • Iftikhar Ali

    opium is considered as the white gold and it is more expensive and profitable than the golden gold.Recommend

  • https://www.facebook.com/shail.arora.589 Shail Arora

    I see what you mean, but please be assured that it wasn’t my intent to undermine the account per se, it was just in the context of an autobiography.Recommend

  • mubeen Shahid

    It was always about Poppy fields(money) in Afghanistan.Taliban was the excuse for the US govtRecommend

  • Billy

    Silly Russian propaganda. Next thing you know you will say how the Americans orchestrated the 9/11 attacks and how the Jews are the real masterminds behind these ‘resource wars’.

    Your conspiracy theory has a fundamental fatal flaw. The war in Afghanistan (and Iraq) have costed more than than the total value of mineral reserves you mention. The fact is that the US have lost trillions in Afghanistan, Americans are not profiting from any natural resources there. The thought that the US government went over there to control the drug trade – in stead of rooting out Al-Qaeda and those who gave them sanctuary ( Taliban )- is even more ludicrous.

    It is no wonder countries in that region cannot move forward. You need to be able to separate fiction from facts to do so.Recommend

  • Billy

    “Afghans are NOT Red Indians!”

    The Taliban are the only soldierlike force on the planet that, when they sustain a 100% casualties in a battle, claim “victory”. ‘All of our fighters were massacred, so we won! ‘What?! If any other military force were to sustain similar losses, they would drown themselves in disgrace. But somehow Afghan propaganda machine successfully sells their defeats as “victories”. Go figure.Recommend

  • gp65

    You normally make very cogent comments. This one was difficult to make sense of. Care to elaborate?Recommend

  • amoghavarsha.ii

    do u think afghanistan land is equal in richness to US land???
    ha ha ha ….Recommend

  • amoghavarsha.ii

    do u think afghanistan land is equal in richness to US land???
    ha ha ha ….Recommend

  • Haris Javed

    Gentleman,
    Albert Einstein once said “Blind belief in authority is the greatest enemy of truth” Your opinion reflects Russophobia. Links given below will help you enlighten yourself from different scholars around globe, in addition to Russians.

    http://www.patriotsquestion911.com/

    http://www.911scholars.org/

    http://www.ae911truth.org/

    http://pilotsfor911truth.org/

    http://pl911truth.com/

    http://mp911truth.org/Recommend

  • Haris Javed

    Gentleman,
    Albert Einstein once said “Blind belief in authority is the greatest enemy of truth” Your opinion reflects Russophobia. Links given below will help you enlighten yourself from different scholars around globe, in addition to Russians.

    http://www.patriotsquestion911.com/

    http://www.911scholars.org/

    http://www.ae911truth.org/

    http://pilotsfor911truth.org/

    http://pl911truth.com/

    http://mp911truth.org/Recommend

  • abhi

    I don’t think there was any larger objective other than to punish the repsonsible for 911. That objetive is achieved as Laden is dead. Rest is upto Afghan’s to use this opportuinity and bring the changes. You can bring horse to water but cannot make it drink.Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    I’d like to have my lawyer present please.Recommend

  • Sonia K

    O i really need to figure that one….. coz Talibans are still alive and running while the exit strategy is being employed by the States!
    So if Afghans were defeated….. I guess we would be seeing another America in the making in Afghanistan soil and in the mountains!!!
    Figure it out….Recommend

  • Sonia K

    I dont know….. u tell me what US wants with the barren Afghan land if it has nothing…..or maybe u will be able to tell me that when Disney makes a movie about it in 20 years from now!!!!Recommend