Tag Archives: Afghanistan

“Afghanistan-creep”, How the quest for Bin Laden turned into Nation-Building

    On September 24, 2012, the Taliban released a video that purportedly documents the training of the forces that attacked Camp Bastion, a NATO airbase in Helmand Province on September 14th. In this attack, 15 men disguised in U.S. Army uniforms breached the perimeter fence and proceeded to attack aircraft and soldiers on the airfield. Utilizing automatic weapons and grenade launchers, the attackers managed to kill 2 marines and destroy 6 fighter jets costing about 200 million dollars all together. All the attackers were killed save one.
    A NY Daily Times article suggests that the release of this video by the Taliban is meant to counter NATO claims that the Afghan insurgency is weakening due to a decrease in attacks in July and August of this year as compared with the same months in 2011. Lost in this publicity battle, is the question I often ask: “What in the world are we still doing in Afghanistan after nearly 11 years??” On September 20, 2001, George W. Bush demanded that the Taliban, a militant Islamic group ruling large parts of Afghanistan and the capital of Kabul, deliver Osama Bin Laden to U.S. authorities and close or destroy all al Qaeda bases in Afghanistan. The Taliban refused to meet either of these demands. On October 7, 2001, the U.S. Forces, with U.K, Australian, and the Afghan United Front forces, attacked Afghanistan, launching air strikes against Kabul. With the benefit of hindsight, we can examine with greater objectivity the success of U.S. And NATO involvement in Afghanistan up to this point.
    First, let’s define the problem of Afghanistan: Osama Bin Laden and his terrorist group, al Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the 9/11 terrorist attack that killed over 3,000 Americans. We have a moral right and, in fact, a moral imperative, to bring to justice the perpetrators of this heinous crime against innocent U.S. civilians. However, Bin Laden and his terrorist group is based mainly in Afghanistan and is harbored by the Taliban, which currently rule most of Afghanistan. Now, the Taliban are not enemies of the United States, no matter how many atrocities they have committed against the Afghan people. So, we have the unenviable conundrum of trying to get at an enemy that is being harbored by a non-enemy.
Now, there are two approaches to my mind. The one approach, attack Afghanistan, is the one chosen by the Bush Administration. The other is to use convert operatives and technology to locate Bin Laden and extract him and locate the al Qaeda bases and destroy them. Whether the second would have worked better than the first, we’ll never know. However, in all fairness, the U.S. and NATO war on Afghanistan did advance the objectives of the original mission. Several if not all of al Qaeda’s bases were destroyed and Bin Laden fled Afghanistan presumably into Pakistan. However, why didn’t we stop the war in Afghanistan after destroying much of al Qaeda’s bases and after Bin Laden had fled (or at least when we thought he might have fled)? Wouldn’t that have been the time to withdraw and devote our energies toward tracking down Bin Laden? Strangely, this did not happen. No, the Bush Administration found a new cause in Afghanistan.
    Even though the Taliban have never been our stated enemy, the decision was made to drive the Taliban out of power and replace them with a democratically-elected government. Those in the business world are familiar with the term “scope-creep.” Well, as can be seen, our military leadership is not immune to this malady. In Afghanistan, scope-creep manifested itself as nation-building. And it is nation-building that keeps us in Afghanistan almost 11 years after the beginning of the war and after Osama Bin Laden was killed in Pakistan on May 2, 2012. It is nation-building that will keep us there indefinitely until we finally realize that nation-building is a cure worse than the disease.