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Burton L. Wise Headshot

Afghanistan: History says "NO"

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If those who forget History are condemned to repeat it, we can expect a disaster. There may have been logical reasons to invade Afghanistan in 2001-2002, when we "defeated" the Taliban and "almost" caught Bin Laden. Then came the Iraq invasion, and Afghanistan was mostly ignored. Now we have moved more troops than before back to Afghanistan, and are considering whether to send even more to fight the resurrected Taliban and Al Qaeda, support an incompetent corrupt government, and "win the hearts and minds of the people".'

I am not a pundit, nor have I been to Afghanistan, but I have read some history and other pertinent writings especially Rory Stewart's The Places In Between (Harvest Books, 2006) which describes his walk across Afghanistan alone in winter, spending each night in a different tribal enclave and speaking with the local tribesmen. He describes a land made up of many ancient independent tribes which have resisted conquest for millenia, from Alexander The Great through the recent Russian invasion.

The weak central government is mainly irrelevant in tribal areas. When the Taliban was "defeated", members and officials returned to their tribes and were indistinguishable from other tribal society members-several were quietly pointed out to Stewart.

I do not have the expertise to question the current military strategy or tactics "on the ground", but history suggests that Afghanistan's tribal societies are unconquerable in the long run. We are ending or destroying the lives of brave young men and women, and pouring money we do not have into this "bottomless pit"--probably to no avail.