President Obama addressed the nation yesterday from Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, and on the first anniversary on the elimination of Osama bin Laden, he explained that Afghani security will be Afghani-dependent beginning in 2014. Afghanistan and the United States also executed a “strategic partnership agreement” whereby the United States will work with Afghani security after 2014, but no permanent occupation will take place, and no bases will be built.
Although the President says the “tide has turned” in the Afghan war, the country has by no means returned to any semblance of a pre-1973 stability or security. This is a country that hasn’t known peace and normalcy in almost 40 years, and it’s unlikely to know them anytime soon.
But that’s soon going to be Afghanistan’s problem, not ours. What’s important here is that the withdrawal of American involvement will enable the Afghani government to start talking to the Taliban which, if it renounces violence, will be invited to participate in government. We may have been appalled by the Taliban government’s treatment of its citizenry – particularly its women – we went to war with them over their harboring of al Qaeda, not over their internal affairs. We weren’t so appalled by the Taliban that we did anything about their patrons in the Pakistani security service.
And since al Qaeda was driven into Pakistan and out of Afghanistan, the mission has been muddled, at best. We helped set up the Afghani government that controls very little outside of Kabul. This is a country with a 12% literacy rate for females and 43% for males; with a $900 annual per capita GDP. What Afghanistan needs isn’t more fighting, but investment in education, infrastructure, and to produce things that don’t involve poppies. That investment obviously can’t come from Afghanistan, which barely has a pot within which to piss, and – as in Iraq – American withdrawal risks further instability and the intervention by Afghanistan’s more malevolent neighbors. The US should dedicate itself to make resources available to help Afghanistan educate its people and give them economic opportunity.
But more importantly, President Obama closed with this:
“As we emerge from a decade of conflict abroad and economic crisis at home, it is time to renew America. An America where our children live free from fear, and have the skills to claim their dreams. A united America of grit and resilience, where sunlight glistens off soaring new towers in downtown Manhattan, and we build our future as one people, as one nation.”
It’s also important that we stop fighting wars in Asia and start fixing our own problems here at home.