Today, October 7, 2011 marks the ten year anniversary of our involvement in Afghanistan, the longest war in U.S. History. So, one full decade, many lives and a few trillion dollars
later, are we making progress?
Yes. Kind of. Well, it depends on how you define victory. Says military analyst, Dr. Andrew Exum
, who led troops in Afghanistan and was an adviser to General McChrystal. He acknowledges the circular nature of the conflict there.
Exume says that the policy objective of President Obama is basically the same as that of President Bush, which is which is to "disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda." Exume adds, we can defeat al Qaeda and still walk away from Afghanistan without having gained anything.
"Success looks like al Qaeda central collapsing," Exume says. But "do we then have other transnational terror groups" who have been radicalized and fueled by the past decade of conflict?
In other words, winning war on terror is creating more terrorists and so basically perpetuating the war on terror.
Unfortunately, a positive outcome isn't a lot more heartening. It would be reconciliation with insurgent groups like the Taliban, as a result of what Exume calls a "negotiated political settlement." But that's arguably what we had before
the war in Afghanistan: an uneasy peace with the Taliban.
And we could have capitalized on the uneasy peace we had with the Taliban before going to war, according to David Walters, the former governor of Oklahoma. Tulsa World
reports that David Walter was having back channel talks with the Taliban two years before 9/11, that could have "led to Osama bin Laden's expulsion from Afghanistan."
"I realize we cannot live our lives constantly asking 'would've, could've, should've' questions, but failing to capitalize on the Taliban overtures from Afghanistan in 1999 proved to be a world history-changing failure by our government."
Major General Paul Eaton,
who served in Iraq and now works for a think tank in Washington D.C.
, says the reason that progress is slow in Afghanistan is that our diplomatic efforts have been MIA. "We are not going to kill our way out of this problem," Eaton says
Eaton claims that since World War II, the U.S. has been getting involved in wars where the outcome is uncertain and victory is indefinable. He points to Korea, which is still unresolved after the Korean War of the 1950's.
We've agreed to the existence of North Korea and South Korea [but] a state of war persists," Eaton says.
In other words, we're going to war in places like Afghanistan with no clear idea of what winning looks like and therefore no idea of when to end the war.
In Afghanistan, Eaton says we need a more regional approach where we get everyone to the table who has a vested interest in the outcome of the war: Iran, India, Pakistan, China, Turkey. He says Turkey is an especially key player that we should be talking to because they're a Muslim country with a "western approach to doing business."
Well, I asked him, why haven't we been able to get those countries to the table? Eaton said "you'll have to ask the Secretary of State that question."
I tried, but Clinton wasn't picking up.