Sixteen years after the US-led invasion, and the beginning of America’s longest war, Afghanistan stands at a critical crossroads. While fragile gains have been made since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, the nation still faces a daunting array of economic, security, and political risks.
Sixteen years ago, here in Boston on the afternoon of 9/11, we created the United for Justice with Peace coalition with the slogan "No More Victims Anywhere." The next day, as police in Boston swarmed Copley Square in search of the bombers and their associates, our quickly planned vigil was moved to Harvard Square in Cambridge. To our surprise, 700 people gathered there, silently and powerfully with our message "War is Not the Answer." We couldn't imagine that we'd be out here 16 years later in what may still be the early stages of an endless war.
American officials have characterized the Trump administration’s Afghanistan strategy as an integrated military, political, and economic approach, with the end goal of reaching a political settlement of the conflict with the Taliban. At the same time that the administration has stepped up and made open-ended the deployment of American troops to the country, senior officials have acknowledged that this is not a war that will end with victory on the battlefield, but rather, one that will require a negotiated conclusion. We agree that a purely military strategy in Afghanistan cannot succeed in stabilizing the country or in denying space to terrorist groups, and that Washington will only be able to protect its national security interests in the region sustainably on the basis of a political solution negotiated among the United States, the Afghan government, and the Taliban.
India should not be pulled into the US’s approach to Afghanistan — which he warned was part of a "bigger strategic game" that would not bring peace to the region — but should maintain an independent approach based on the shared interests of India and Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, the former President said. Mr. Karzai, who spent nearly 10 years as president up till 2014, said he had expressed his own reservations to India about the new alliance between India and the US in the region. "India is a friend and an ally and a traditional civilizational friend of our country but I want India to continue its traditional wise man approach to the region.
Chief Executive of Afghanistan Abdullah Abdullah was supposed to inaugurate the three-day India-Afghanistan trade and investment show in New Delhi this week, but rocket attacks on Kabul airport earlier this week did not allow him to be a part of the ceremony. Instead, the fair was inaugurated by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and chargé d’affaires of the US embassy in Delhi, MaryKay Carlson. Despite this, Abdullah’s visit to India this week saw him underscoring the growing potency of India-Afghanistan ties in his meetings with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.
Donald Trump announced a mini-surge of U.S. forces into Afghanistan a month ago. This week the Long War Journal reported the Taliban now control or contest 45 percent of Afghanistan’s districts, up from 40 percent three months prior, which was an increase from 34 percent a year earlier, and you get the idea. The Taliban control more territory today than at any point since 2001, and they have the momentum.
Donald Trump mentioned Afghanistan just once in his speech to the United Nations Tuesday. His “new strategy for victory” there, he said, would help “crush the loser terrorists and stop the reemergence of safe havens they use to launch attacks on all of our people.
The election of 2014, though riddled with "irregularities," brought the first peaceful transfer of presidential power in Afghanistan, from Hamid Karzai to Ashraf Ghani. With it came renewed hope that the wild dream of an Afghan-style peaceful democracy might work after all. It was a longing barely diminished by Ghani’s choice for vice president: Abdul Rashid Dostum, an Uzbek warlord notorious for war crimes of surpassing brutality.
Here we go again! Years after most Americans forgot about the longest war this country ever fought, American soldiers are again being deployed to Afghanistan. For almost 16 years now, at the command of three presidents and a sadly forgettable succession of generals, they have gone round and round like so many motorists trapped on a rotary with no exit. This time their numbers are officially secret, although variously reported to be 3,500 or 4,000, with another 6,000-plus to follow, and unknown numbers after that. But who can trust such figures? After all, we just found out that the U.S. troops left behind in Afghanistan after President Obama tried to end the war there in 2014, repeatedly reported to number 8,400, actually have been “closer to 12,000” all this time.
If I were so bold as to send a note to President Ashraf Ghani, I would say this: Tell your people to stop waiting for help from others. They cannot rely on foreign support. Tell your citizens they should instead take an active role in restoring peace to Afghanistan themselves. Tell them they can do this. Tell them that your government will help them.