The International Security Assistance Forces band plays during flag-lowering ceremony in Kabul as NATO forces ceremonially end their 13 year combat mission in Afghanistan, Dec. 8, 2014.
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What Obama calls a responsible end to the Afghanistan War is to not end it. Even though in December 2014 there was a symbolic US and NATO flag lowering ceremony in Kabul, the US war in Afghanistan still goes on even if forgotten.
Obama has kept US boots on the ground in Afghanistan, boots in the air war, droning of wedding parties and funerals, Special Forces night raids, indefinite detentions, tortures, killing of women and children, destruction of infrastructure and carnage of villages, towns and cities. Instead of the war winding down there were instead a record number of civilian deaths in Afghanistan in 2014 (HERE ).
One reason that the US is not leaving Afghanistan is because of a myth that Afghanistan became a breeding ground for al-Qaeda because the US abandoned Afghanistan after the Soviets were defeated in 1989.
The truth is more likely that the mistake the US made was not honoring a United Nations peace agreement worked out by the then Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Geneva. Instead the US was pumped up with triumphalism and stayed in Afghanistan and continued to fund chaos, even after the Soviets left.
The historical lesson that the US should have learned from the Soviet Union's misadventure in Afghanistan is that the best way to end the war is to negotiate a diplomatic peace agreement between all sides, promote reconciliation and the return of refugees, and make generous reparations in the form of financial aid. Then leave.
In 1986 the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was desperate to get out of Afghanistan. In 1987 Gorbachev announced that the Soviet Union would be withdrawing its military from Afghanistan. He thought that he had negotiated a peace deal with the US to stabilize Afghanistan after Soviet troops left. (HERE )
Under that deal the Soviets would withdraw its forces and in exchange the US would stop funding the mujahedeen. Instead the US reneged on the deal and continued funding the civil war in Afghanistan until the overthrow of the government of President Mohammad Najibullah in 1992 (HERE ).
The US had thought that the Najibullah government would quickly fall after the Soviets pulled out in 1989. Instead with the continued Soviet financial support, the government of Najibullah held on until the Soviets finally withdrew their financial support in 1992. Without financial support the Najibullah government in Afghanistan fell to the US backed mujahedeen.
During all those years the US just handed over billions of dollars in military aid to Pakistan to distribute how and to whom they wished. Never mind that Pakistan had very different national security goals in mind than did the US.
And what is Pakistan's most important national security concern? It is India. Pakistan saw how effective and relatively inexpensive (especially when the funding was coming from the US and Saudi Arabia) a motivated force of fanatical Islamic guerillas could be in defeating a super power such as the Soviet Union. They decided to turn that force against India too.
What the US wanted from Pakistan was a quick total victory and the overthrow of the Najibullah government in Afghanistan. What Pakistan wanted was a strong Taliban ally in Afghanistan that would be an ally against India. Pakistan also wanted to promote civil war in Kashmir. Pakistan and India have fought three bloody wars over Kashmir since 1947. Deep hostilities between these two nuclear-armed states continue to this day.
Osama bin Laden was also angered at the US for backing India in the Kashmir dispute. In a 'Letter to American People' written by Osama bin Laden in 2002, he stated that one of the reasons he was fighting America was because of US support for India on the Kashmir issue:
"You attacked us in Somalia; you supported the Russian atrocities against us in Chechnya, the Indian oppression against us in Kashmir, and the Jewish aggression against us in Lebanon." [FULL TEXT HERE]
With the fall of the Najibullah government in 1992 the mujahedeen, which later became known as the Northern Alliance, took power. The Northern Alliance was made up of mostly non-Pashtun mujahedeen lead by Ahmad Shah Massoud.