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Afghanistan: Whose War?
America has achieved its objectives in Afghanistan: al-Qaeda has been dispersed, the Taliban has been punished, an anti-terrorism message has been sent. But Washington’s broader attempt at nation-building has been far less successful, despite the expenditure of nearly 1,000 American lives more than $220 billion. For all this, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, calls the situation in Afghanistan “deteriorating.”
There is no better time than the present for Washington to learn humility. The U.S. cannot impose liberty, prosperity, democracy, and stability on Afghanistan. The Obama administration should focus on protecting Americans from terrorism while leaving nation-building in Afghanistan to the Afghan people.
The easiest way for an American to fly into Afghanistan is on Kam Air from Dubai. But it appears that only Americans fly into Afghanistan on Kam Air from Dubai. Almost, anyway.
The vast majority of passengers on my flights into and out of Kabul were white males, many with military-style haircuts and several with military tattoos. A few may be on active duty. Most probably are private security consultants. As in Iraq, contractors have come to play an increasing role in the way America fights wars.
More significant, though, is the appearance that this is America’s, not Afghanistan’s, war. Afghans are doing most of the dying, of course. But the conflict is what it is because of American (and Western) men and money.
As a city of several million, Kabul is most definitely Afghan. Nevertheless, the city’s organization—to the extent that it exists—is Western. Traffic, commerce, government, and much else revolves around foreign soldiers, diplomats, consultants, aid workers, journalists, and other outsiders who typically show up during war.
Taliban attacks in the capital are few, but no one feels safe. The airport is ringed by barbed wire; the road leading in is filled with concrete blocks and checkpoints. Travelers face multiple bag and body checks. Humvees topped with machine guns stand guard.
Note: The author, Doug Bandow, is the Robert A. Taft Fellow at the American Conservative Defense Alliance, advisor to Campaign for Liberty, and a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute. He is also a former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan. Read more.