The sad, heartbreaking reality of America’s longest war is laid shockingly bare in the pages of the Afghanistan Papers. The unattainable goal of bringing western style democracy to a tribal Islamic nation, where corruption runs deeper than the Mariana Trench, was a fool’s errand and just one more example of American hubris.
The bombing campaign against the Taliban forces in Afghanistan began in early October 2001, and by December there were 6,500 air strikes, 17,500 bombs dropped and more than 520 targets taken out. On December 9th, the Taliban surrendered the city of Kandahar, their power base and last major stronghold. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld declared that the “Taliban are gone, al-Qaida is on the run, there’s nothing left to bomb in Afghanistan...so we have to go to Iraq.
Suddenly, there was an abrupt change in strategy and on April 17, 2002, in a speech from the Virginia Military Institute, President George Bush said “We are working in the best tradition of the Marshall Plan to build an Afghanistan that is free from this evil and a better place to live.” Our mission of seeking justice for the atrocities of 9/11 morphed into a Super Power occupying a foreign Islamic country with the now stated purpose of Nation building.
As with any contract, one should always read the fine print, as the old saying goes, the devil is in the details. So just what did we get for our $2.6 trillion investment? For $83 billion we got two decades worth of training for 300,000 fully equipped Afghan soldiers. Almost 76,000 vehicles, including Humvees, all-terrain 4-wheel drives, armored personnel carriers, transport trucks, light tactical vehicles, 208 aircraft including Black Hawk helicopters and 600,000 Infantry weapons! I guess that rag-tag bunch of Taliban fighters can finally trade in their old beat up Toyota trucks for the finest in American made transportation.
We somehow lost $174 million dollars worth of Drones, $9 billion was spent on a futile attempt to eradicate the more than 550,000 acres of Poppy fields. Drug cartels are happy to report that Afghanistan is still number “1” as the world’s largest Opiate supplier. Old Glory no longer waves over the $2 billion U.S. Embassy, which now stands empty waiting for the new tenants to arrive. And the beautiful $94.8 million buildings and campus of the American University of Afghanistan is being evacuated and dismantled. No more teachers, no more books, schools out forever.
For a brief moment in time, the Afghan people had a taste of “FREEDOM”. There was dancing in the streets, music could be played, and songs could be sung! The heavy boot of a radical oppressive regime had been lifted, men were allowed to trim their beards, the women shed their head-to-toe Burkas and for the first time young girls could seek an education without the fear of death.
I only have one thing to say about this so called improved, more enlightened, modern day Taliban...the snake that bit you yesterday may have a shiny new skin today, but he’s still a snake...please stay safe my friends.