It is extraordinary that the U.S. military remained in Afghanistan after Bin Laden slipped out of Afghanistan through Tora Bora into Pakistan in 2001. For the next 12 years the U.S. was engaged in a war with Afghan villagers -- the Taliban. It intends to complete troop withdrawal by the end of 2014.
Why 13 years of U.S. war against the Taliban in the villages of Afghanistan? Why did the U.S. military remain In Iraq for eight years after it was readily determined that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? Does the U.S. veer off rational calculation? Perhaps not, the answer maybe structural dissonance. Both sides were caught in a losing debacle.
It is time to make permanent peace in Afghanistan -- morality, rationality and strategic considerations demand it. We have no purpose to be in Afghanistan for one more day or shed the blood of one more American soldier, kill one more innocent villager or spend one million dollars to kill one more Taliban.
At the outset, we must recognize that the role of Pakistan, India, Iran and other neighboring countries must be de-minimized; Afghans are capable managing their affairs as they have done for thousands of years.
The Taliban-U.S. war in Afghanistan is essentially local (it was made international by bringing in NATO members). The cause is structural miscommunication, i.e., fundamental differences exist in perception, understanding, cultures and technologies.
The antagonists (the U.S. and Taliban) never understood each other but feared each other. That explains their dangerous behavior. The U.S. feared attack by the Taliban and adhered to sophisticated military technology and the Taliban relied on their innate resistance, rich cultural values with a strong staying power at unfavorable odds.
The U.S. believes that the Taliban supports al Qaeda against the security interest of the U.S. And when and if the U.S. withdraws completely, arguably the Taliban will take over and invite al Qaeda back into Afghanistan who will arguably threaten the U.S. security. That is a very myopic view and yet it prevails in some Washington quarters.
The Taliban believe that there is a triangular war in Afghanistan including Pakistan, the Taliban and the U.S. Pakistan sends suicide bombers and bombs to inflict damages to the U.S. military, the U.S. retaliates by bombing the Pashtun villages (some 30,000 pound bombs) destroying human beings , vegetation, animals and all creatures. And the Taliban suffer the consequences. Perhaps this triangular war will cease with the withdrawal of U.S. troops and he ascendance of Nawaz Sharif as prime minister of Pakistan.
These structural differences have caused fundamental mistaken beliefs about each other (the U.S. and the Taliban) and that structural differences explain why the Afghanistan war is the longest U.S. war in its history. The Taliban created fear in the minds of U.S, military strategist that was unwarranted just like the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq that was not there but it took the U.S. eight years to disengage from Iraq at enormous loss of wealth and blood for both sides. The common element in both wars was the perceived security danger for the U.S. that the military strategic analysts feared security dangers and prolonged the wars.
Clearly the U.S. over-reacted using its most sophisticated military technology including the drones while the Taliban with less defense capabilities responded/resisted albeit sustaining much greater damages in innocent human lives and property damages. No doubt, the U.S. followed dangerous strategies and the Taliban sustained enormous damages at great sacrifices and suffering.
Peace is possible. However, after 12 year of war and enormous damages sustained by both sides it is time for cool heads not to fear each other, have a clear-eyed view of the consequences and try to see the day lights, i.e., there is no security fear from the Taliban for the United states and the Americans no longer should have reason to harbor any vengeance against the Taliban Pashtuns in Afghanistan; they have no connection with al Qaeda. It follows both sides should no longer be fearful of each other and gain trust that the war is winding down. The momentum of peace must overcome he inertia for war.
However, the U.S. must not create nine military bases, as it has announced, after 2014. That act will dissipate trust among Afghans who will lose the truthfulness of ending the war. Besides, the jihadist from all neighboring countries will be attracted to the American military bases attaching and pandering; and there will never be peace in Afghanistan as long as foreign troops remain in the country. The "lone wolfs" may multiple all of the world and Afghan soldiers and officers may shoot at their western trainers and other unforeseen retaliation may take place which will be harmful to U.S. security.
The United State and NATO will do well to totally disengage from military presence and assist Afghanistan reduce unemployment, build housing for its refugees returning from Iran and Pakistan, provide for financing small and medium enterprises, develop agro-business, tourism, upgrade all levels of education and infrastructure.
Nake Kamrany is a professor of economics at the University of Southern California.