America’s war in Afghanistan has lasted close to 20 years and is estimated to have cost Washington around a trillion dollars. With U.S. military operations in the country scheduled to officially end on August 31, many people are raising questions about American military’s failure in the war.
After all, by all accounts, the U.S. did fail in Afghanistan. It did not fully obliterate Al-Qaeda, failed to wipe out the Taliban, and also failed at making Afghanistan a strong democracy.
While Al-Qaeda has weakened considerably, some of the top-level members and hundreds of operatives are still present in Afghanistan according to a May 2020 letter by the United National Security Council. The Taliban is growing strong and is in the midst of bringing many parts of Afghanistan under its control. And though Afghanistan is seen as a country, it cannot be considered so as the region does not meet the definition of a nation.
“Countries have singular governments that assert a monopoly on violence acknowledged within its own claimed borders. The organization that we currently call the Afghan government does not do this. Their failure to do so is why the war has been ongoing. They have admitted that they are highly dependent on the US for security. Their forces do not have freedom to travel. They will be left to compete with the Taliban and various other groups for control of the area that we mistakenly paint a single color on the political map,” Vikram Bath, former business school professor writes for the Ordinary Times.
Despite being a failure, America’s military leaders have long either lied about the ground situation or attempted to deflect blame. In 2013, Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that the Afghan army and police have been “very, very effective in combat against the insurgents every single day.”
As America’s war in Afghanistan draws to a close, over 60,000 Afghan military and police personnel are estimated to have been killed. In contrast, only around 42,000 Taliban terrorists have been killed. To make matters worse, American funds were so corruptly used in the country that at least 40 percent of the $103 billion allocated for reconstruction activities have gone into the hands of Taliban insurgents and other warlords. So essentially, America ended up funding its enemy.
Instead of addressing America’s failure in Afghanistan, Milley has been raising domestic issues. In June 2021, Milley told Congress that he wanted to understand “white rage” and why people tried to “assault this building.” He was referring to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
Accountability to soldiers and citizens
Writing for The Federalist, Josiah Lippincott, student of politics at Hillsdale College and a former Marine Corps officer, accuses the military leaders of America of having gone “woke,” to cover up their overseas military failures. He wants a full accounting of America’s military mission in Afghanistan and called on Congress to create an Afghanistan War Commission.
Lippincott proposes that the House and Senate Select Committees on Intelligence use their declassification authority to shine a spotlight on the “Afghanistan papers” in full.
Afghanistan papers refer to a group of internal documents from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), U.S. government’s leading authority on the reconstruction of the Central Asian country. The documents were obtained by The Washington Post via Freedom of Information Act. It revealed that high-ranking American officials knew that the war in Afghanistan was unwinnable yet continued to hide this fact from the public. Only 10 percent of the 600 interviews conducted by SIGAR have been released.
Lippincott also wants ISAF and CENTCOM commanders to testify on the war. He points out that spending a trillion dollars and losing 2,300 American lives without accounting for such a disaster would not sit well with the republican form of government the U.S. practices.
“Those military leaders who failed to properly account for their own efforts, mislead the public, and then racked up cushy paychecks after the war deserve to be punished. Generals who lose wars should lose their pensions. At the very least. It isn’t right for thousands of America’s sons and daughters to lose life and limb in service of idiotic policy goals while their leaders get rich,” Lipincott writes.
In an interview with France24, John Sopko, who was appointed as the SIGAR, said that American military was fixated on short-term achievements in Afghanistan and constantly kept changing the objectives so as to look better. He stated that Washington’s focus on creating a “strong central government” in the nation was a “mistake.” Even though many experts warned against such efforts, “we didn’t listen to any of them.”
Sopko feels that the U.S. experience in Afghanistan can be described in two words. “One is hubris, that we can somehow take the country that was desolate in 2001, and turn it into a little Norway… And the other thing is mendacity. We exaggerated, over-exaggerated, our generals did, our ambassadors did, all of our officials did, to Congress and the American people, about ‘we’re just turning the corner, we’re about ready to turn the corner’,” Sopko said.