Afghanistan, a landlocked country of 250,000 square miles is located in Central Asia. To the east and south it is on the border of Pakistan and China respectively while to the west it borders Iran. Its northern neighbors are Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. This nation has suffered a constant civil war since the 1970s multiplied by the foreign nation’s interventions in the form of the 2001 US invasion as well as the 1979 USSR invasion. The considered interests of these world powers in Afghanistan coupled by the potential threats of drug trafficking, terrorism, smuggling and religious extremism are a proof that the conflict in Afghanistan can have effects exploding far away beyond its borders. Its economic dependence together with its geo strategic location made it vulnerable to a number of foreign interventions and influences, in a number of occasions in the long conflicts.
The US, which had just ascended its position as the new global power, initially did not have any strategic plan for Afghanistan. As a matter of fact, their interest was ignited by the expansion of the USSR southwards in an attempt to annex part of Afghanistan. After the 1988 Geneva accord, the US and its proxies continued to give various Afghanistan factions support. With time the Kabul regime weakened and the foreign powers decided to partner with various internal factions in Afghanistan. There was an emergence of stronger peripheral forces which resulted in the rise of concealed tribal animosities. The soviet incursion coupled with the presence of the US troops in Afghanistan today point towards extension of the conflict at different times and with different players (Cohen A.15).
Events Leading To US Invasion in Afghanistan
A Cooperation and friendship treaty was signed between the USSR and Afghanistan in 1978. One year later, the USSR troops invaded Kabul and apprehended all the critical installations. Hafizullar Amin was killed and was replaced by Babrak Karmal who was unable to rule outside Kabul despite being backed by 120,000 troops. This was due to the Islamic resistance movement led by the Mujahedeen. The USA in conjunction with other powers started assisting the Mujahedeen in 1984 enabling it to disrupt the USSR installed leadership.
Najibullah Muhammad replaced Karmal in 1986 but did not gain people’s hearts. In the mid 80s, the Soviet Union started feeling the heat from the Afghanistan resistant forces both militarily and in regard to its relations with the west as well as the Arab world. Once they realized they had been beaten, the USSR started withdrawing from Afghanistan in 1988.This subsequently left the USA as the only superpower in Afghanistan. The hasty USSR withdrawal left a power vacuum that led to the civil war and sectional infighting as Afghanistan was initially a monarchical system of government and every community wanted to fill this slot (Cohen , p. 15).
The rise of Afghanistan against the USSR occupation was based on Islamic jihad which brought in fundamentalism due to the vreligious indocritination. The rise of fundamentalism coupled with the power vacuum made Afghanistan become a pariah state and thus started to harbor terrorists from all corners of the world. This included Osama Bin Laden who until the mid of this year was the world’s most wanted terrorist. Since they needed money to sustain their war, Afghanistan war lords opted to drug trafficking and cultivation of poppy because the military and political conflict provided an enabling environment for them to do so unnoticed. Within no time, Afghanistan had become a drug heaven and drugs started being smuggled to all corners of the world from this “golden crescent”.
In reaction to warlordism and anarchy, former Mujahedeen members formed a group called the Taliban. They provided order, removed war lords and imposed strict Islamic laws. They were occupying about 90% of the country as by 1994.With their determination they established their government in 1996 in Kabul (Cohen, p. 15). Their strict Islamic laws which included banning women from working outside their homes made them loose the International Community’s support and as such the US had to distance itself from them too.
The USA had no formal recognition of the Taliban but only accepted it for the restoration of peace in Afghanistan which would provide an enabling environment for the construction of gas and oil pipelines (Cortright). This project by Unocal that traversed Afghanistan from Turkmenistan on its way to India was supported by the USA and was very important to them. Unfortunately relations between the Taliban and the USA began to decline over Afghanistan’s refusal to hand over Osama Bin Laden who was wanted for masterminding the terrorism particularly against the US strategies including its embassies in Kenya and Nigeria. In 1998, the US pushed to the wall, fired a missile in Afghanistan that missed Osama Bin Laden by a whisker (R.M 10).
In 2001, Collin Powel the US Secretary of State listed a number of reasons that frustrated relations between the USA and the Taliban and these included: Taliban’s declination to accommodate an all inclusive government, Taliban’s refusal to hand over Osama Bin laden, violations of human rights, particularly mistreating women and continually supporting terrorism. The September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center changed the whole scenario with President George W. Bush sensationally stating that the USA won’t distinguish between the terrorists and the people who harbored them. The NATO Charter’s article 5 was signed by the leaders across the world that stood with the USA at this point in time including those in the Arab league who did so after comparing notes about Bin Laden (Cohen, p. 15).
The NATO operations in Afghanistan initially failed because the Taliban became more resilient but after a number of multi directional pressures the Taliban was defeated. Tribal war lords in conjunction with other anti Taliban factions rose to take up the reign of power in Kabul. After the 2001 US invasion of Afghanistan, the Taliban and their religious extremists including the Al-Qaida fled to Pakistan.
In 2001 many people felt that the US forces should have left Afghanistan by then since the costs had become so heavy to bear, the losses were becoming uncountable and no gains were being made (Emery,, 1p.). This coupled with the fact that the Afghan government was corrupt and Al-Qaida had left the country made things complex for the US administration. All this puzzle coupled with the toughness of the Obama administration was solved in the mid of this year when Osama Bin Laden was located deep in Pakistan at a compound in Abbottabad and as soon as the time was deemed right, the President ordered his execution. This being the greatest achievement so far in the US attempt to curtail Al-Qaida means that the future will be peaceful since the network is practically as good as dead (Thomma et al. n.p).
Early this year the US President announced that he had ordered 10,000 troops to leave Afghanistan and would have 23,000 leave by the 2012 summer (Thomma n.p).This is a step in the right direction since with the murder of Osama Bin Laden on May 1st 2011 and the US President declaring that justice had been done. In the real sense the Al-Qaida network had been dismantled and thrown into disarray. Most of its leadership including its leading man in East Africa is now dead. The world can now be said to be safer without the charismatic role of Osama Bin Laden, Al-Qaida, which had already broken into factions before his death, is a pale shadow of its old self (Washington Report on Middle East Affairs).
The 2001 invasion of Afghanistan has caused the USA $443 billion and over 1000 service men that have died while in combat. President Barrack Obama has made a commitment to bring home 33,000 troops by the next summer and let Afghan security forces take care of their own security issues which is the right thing to do under the given circumstances (Ahmed pN.PAG, p. 1). This means that according to his plan, the remaining 70,000 forces would be home by 2014 (Thomma).
To ensure that the President’s withdrawal plan is carried out without side shows, Islamabad’s mediation efforts should be encouraged between reconcilable Taliban elements and the Afghan government. Pakistan and the Afghan leadership should also work together for this is the only way the boundary conflicts would be solved for once and for all (Christian Science Monitor). In the same breath, NATO should take control of the remaining years to ensure a smooth transition to the Afghan government security (Mulrine n.p).