The war in Afghanistan is very similar to the Vietnam War for the United States in terms of length and unpopularity.
However, it may not be time for the United States and its NATO coalition to pull out of Afghanistan. Although all NATO nations have agreed to withdraw their troops from Afghanistan by 2014, it may be necessary, though perhaps unpopular in each NATO nation, to prolong military intervention indefinitely until Afghanistan can assure a permanently legitimate government and military devoid of anti-Western sentiment.
The issue of prolonged military intervention comes up due to unprecedented killings of NATO troops by Afghani troops over the past year, particularly this past month. 5 Australian troops were shot and killed by an Afghan traitor soldier today. This is not an isolated case. This year, Afghan soldiers have killed over 40 NATO coalition troops. This figure is much higher than it was in 2011 and is twice as high as it was in 2010.
These key issues highlight the discord between Afghani troops and their Western ‘allies.’ NATO officials point to Taliban influences in the Afghani government as reasons for this violence. This is an extremely disturbing trend, as it shows that Afghanistan has not progressed from its 1990s illegitimate, violent, anti-Western government that the United States attempted to overthrow in the first place as part of its War on Terror.
Another key factor in the killing of Western troops is terrorist groups disguised as Afghani troops. This has culminated in about 60 insider killings, but the vast majority of these have been on fellow Afghani troops. Only a handful of these have resulted in foreign soldier killings. Afghanistan also seems content to blame these issues on Pakistan’s ISI, the Pakistani equivalent of the CIA. Afghanistan has blamed all of its political turmoil on Pakistan in the last decade, but these claims seem baseless.
Perhaps the Americans are part of the issue. An Afghani military commander claimed, “Burning Qurans, massacring defenseless women and children, urinating on dead bodies, and midnight raids are outrages for which the U.S. is now paying a heavy cost.” He elaborates, “America has done a lot for us. But the terrible, individual acts of a few U.S. soldiers have caused enormous collective damage to our relations.”
The United States has consistently made the mistake of retracting military intervention too early. Afghanistan is a key example of this. Throughout the 1980s, the United States funded Afghani Mujahedeen rebels against the invading Soviets. Then, in 1989, as soon as the Mujahedeen had overthrown the Soviets, the United States and Saudi Arabia abruptly cut off funding to the nation. This left Afghanistan in tatters and allowed the Taliban to come to power. Now, the United States has no excuse. It has seen its historical failures in this regard and can see the current influence of the Taliban and strongly anti-American influence in Afghanistan’s government and military. The United States has a moral responsibility to remain actively involved in Afghani government, even if deciding to discontinue its military intervention, until it can reasonably ensure an Afghani ally with a similar government structure, outlook, and ideals as the United States.