The war-weary people of America watch as the war in Afghanistan slowly winds down, heading toward a complete withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops by the end of 2014, hopefully sooner. One might say that in 2001, when the U.S. invaded and occupied that nation, an irresistible force, America, met an immovable object, Afghanistan. And now the irresistible force is trying to figure out how it can extricate itself from that graveyard of empires with some degree of honor and respect in this world.
The invasion and occupation by a foreign military power are certainly nothing new to the Afghan people; many military empires have, over centuries, tried to subdue and pacify that country and its people. And every one from Alexander the Great in 330 B.C., followed by the Mongols, the British on two separate occasions, and the Russians in the 1980's, was defeated and expelled; and now it is America's turn.
After more than ten years America's plans to establish a strong military presence in resource-rich Central Asia have been met with a giant obstacle. History quite likely will record the first decade of the 21st century as the point at which America took a sharp turn in a direction leading to nowhere, onto an endless one way street. The U.S. government, with the Bush/Cheney administration calling the shots, made the grievous mistake of invading and occupying Afghanistan and now America will have to pay the price for these reckless, misguided actions.
At that time, when this nation badly needed the best and the brightest to lead it into the future, they had been had become so disillusioned and frustrated that they wanted no part of government service. Instead America had the terrible misfortune to watch as the Republican-controlled Supreme Court selected G.W. Bush as its hand-picked president. And, from that point on, this country has never been the same. It did not take long for the Bush/Cheney administration and its associated war hawks to launch an attack on Afghanistan; little did they know, at the time, that they were purchasing a plot in its graveyard of empires.
On the subject of war, former Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, could not have said it any better. As he approached his retirement, he said that "any American leader who would again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should have his head examined." Amen and amen; those words of wisdom should be carved into the façade of the White House and the U.S. Congress so the leaders of this nation will never, ever forget the bitter lessons of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But even before the withdrawal of U.S. troops can gather momentum the situation in Afghanistan continues to rapidly deteriorate. America is spending many billions of dollars to train as many as 200,000 Afghans to take over the security of that nation; U.S. troops have been training many of these Afghans who, when they see the opportunity, will turn on their mentors when it is least expected and exact their revenge in bloody acts of retribution. And, as we have seen recently, such acts of revenge are becoming all too common as both U.S. and NATO troops continue to be killed by supposedly friendly Afghan personnel.
This is no longer just a war between two opposing forces in that barren country. It has now turned into an ongoing stream of atrocities. The incident of an American sergeant killing 17 Afghan civilians is just the latest of many such tragedies. And the acts of revenge committed by Afghans are also escalating. As the number of U.S. troops significantly declines, those still remaining in that country will come under more and more attacks which will not stop until the withdrawal is concluded.