With 40 U.S. and NATO troops killed by insider attacks, including Staff Sgt. Sky Mote of El Dorado, what are we to make of Afghanistan? One thing for sure is it is a country with a strange history — at least since the Soviet invasion.
Basically from 1927 to 1967 the country was ruled by a monarchy whose efforts were to modernize the country, sometimes ruling with a constitution. The monarchy and constitution were overthrown in a coup in 1973. That dictator was overthrown by homegrown communists in 1978. The communists naturally promoted atheism, closed the mosques and attempted land distribution. They must have read the Joseph Stalin playbook, because, according to Human Rights Watch, they killed 100,000 Afghans in the process.
Being a communist in an Islamic country has its challenges. By spring of 1979, 24 of 28 provinces were in revolt. Having already requested financial advisory help from the USSR and then signed a deal for military support in December 1978, the Afghan communist government asked for military help.
This is a key difference between U.S. involvement and Soviet involvement. The government of Afghanistan asked the Soviet Union to provide military support, which it did in December 1979 by sending in 100,000 troops. Though it also can be considered an invasion, since the Soviets were unhappy that their favorite Afghan leader was killed by another communist, who they said was meeting secretly with the U.S. chargé d’affaires.
“By the time the last Soviet soldier returned to his native soil in February 1989, over 13,000 of his comrades had fallen in Afghan dirt, and another 40,000 were wounded,” wrote Artemy Kalinovsky in his 2011 book “A Long Goodbye, the Soviet Withdrawal from Afghanistan.” That was essentially after nine years.
In slightly more than 10 years the U.S. has lost 2,102 troops. Counting 425 U.K. troops and 628 other coalition partners, the total killed to date is 3,155. The smaller number is no consolation to the parents and spouses of those who died, but it’s a testament to American training and equipment.
Though the USSR and the USA both tried modernizing the country, bolstering the regime in power and building an indigenous army, it should be kept in mind that our primary goal has been to kill or capture the al-Qaeda plotters who killed 3,000 Americans on Sept. 11, 2001. Still on the lam is the murderous Taliban Defense Minister Mullah Omar. Our secondary goal has been to prevent the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan again and providing a haven for al-Qaeda.
If that is the goal, then why is President Obama attempting to negotiate with the Taliban? It only makes us look weak and encourages the Taliban to hang in there and wait for the U.S. to leave.
After the USSR pulled out its troops in 1989, the Afghan communist government survived until 1992. It was replaced with an Islamic government, which repulsed an attack by the Taliban in 1995. But then Pakistan provided military and financial support to the Taliban, who seized Kabul in September 1996.
There were 20,000 Pakistani troops and about 8,000 Pakistani militants supporting 25,000 Taliban troops, according to Wikipedia. About 3,000 of the Taliban army were Arab and Central Asian militants, including Bin Laden’s 055 Brigade, all responsible for mass killing of Afghan civilians.
It seems obvious that the Obama administration should be negotiating with Pakistan instead of the Taliban. We also should be helping India modernize its Air Force and Army equipment to provide subtle pressure against Pakistan.
The U.S. has developed 350,000 Afghan security forces, including the police and army. But in two and a half months Obama will have the U.S. troops cut down to 68,000.
But what are we to think of the 40 American and coalition troops killed by Afghan security force members? As pointed out by the Heritage Foundation’s Amy Payne, the Afghan “recruits are mostly rural, illiterate men who can become disgruntled by cultural differences with their American trainers or susceptible to insurgent bribes or intimidation.”
Gen. John R. Allen, commander in Afghanistan, said Aug. 23 that Ramadan fasting, which includes no water, until sundown while conducting combat operations may play a role in adding to the stress on Afghan troops.
The best solution we have heard most recently is to be sure our troops are armed at all times, though some seem a little taken aback to see Marines with loaded side arms working out on a treadmill on the base.
Alexander the Great, who conquered Persia in 330 B.C., was reputed to have said, “Afghanistan was easy to march into, hard to march out of.”
It is a hard, confusing and faraway country, but the 2,102 Americans who died there were protecting America. We honor them and we are grateful for those still protecting our country by keeping the Taliban and al-Qaeda from making a comeback in Afghanistan.