17 Oct '15     home | previous

Obama and Afghanistan

A recent surge of Taliban attacks in Afghanistan has been by President Obama announcing his plan to extend the 9,800 US troops there through most of 2016. He said he is "firmly convinced" that the US cannot "allow Afghanistan to be used as a safe haven" for armed groups like the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Outgoing Republican House Speaker, John A. Boehner, says he is "glad the administration finally admits President Obama's arbitrary political deadlines are 'self-defeating.' " Republican Mac Thornberry of Texas, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, believes Obama should be doing more. "While this new plan avoids a disaster," he says, "it is certainly not a plan for success." Someone else argues that we should not expect the 9,800 to accomplish what a greater number of troops, and our allies, had failed to accomplish.

Not everybody accepts that preventing a "safe haven for terrorists" is a good reason for putting troops into a foreign country. It's a new issue – new to this century. (It wasn't the reason that Japanese gave for moving troops to China, or the Germans spoke of when they invaded Poland, or a rationale given by the colonialist British, French and Italians in North Africa and elsewhere.) Since the attack in New York City on September 11, 2001, "safe haven" has been a security concern. It was the reason given for the US military moving into Afghanistan almost a month later, on October 7 – what the US military called Operation Enduring Freedom. The purpose of the invasion was to oust the Taliban-led government in order to prevent future attacks by al Qaeda. In response, the leader of al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, called on all Muslims to wage a holy war against the United States, and the US heightened its security concern at its borders.

Some Americans are for putting troops in Afghanistan for a reason other than just looking out for ourselves – "shared values." In Afghanistan we are supporting Muslims we like against those with Taliban-like mentalities. Among the world's Muslims today, a great conflict exists. The President of Afghanistan, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, is educated. He has a degree in cultural anthropology. He taught at the University of California in 1983, then at Johns Hopkins from '83 to 1991. He has studied state-building and social transformation. Ghani has asked Obama to keep the US troops in Afghanistan, and Obama and many in the US want the Ghani regime to succeed and the retrogades out of power. Obama describes the security situation in Afghanistan as "still very fragile."

A few who would prefer that the US refuse the Ghani regime speak of US imperialism or empire. Some who think historically see the age of empire as having ended and history as having moved on, and they want US participation in the great conflict of today.

Copyright © 2016 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.