Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by plmmar, Mar 29, 2010.
Why exactly are we in Afghanistan?
A little thing called 9/11.
Did you really need to ask?
Yes, I think it is a good question to ask.
Since some of our kids could end up there it is a very good question to ask.
Iraq, Iran I understand.
But why would we think we could be successful in Afghanistan when the Soviets weren't. What strategic benefits are there to being there?
What do we hope to accomplish? What are our goals?
Do we hope that it will become another Iraq?
Fair enough. Since I can only give you my OPINION, and NOT OFFICIAL USA POLICY, I will try to answer your questions based upon my involvement in both OIF and OEF.
a. Why do we think we would...when the Soviets weren't?
Answer: First, if you have the chance, you should read "Charlie Wilson's War" to gain a great bit of insight into WHY the Soviets failed as he was VERY involved (it's a great read!) A little known congressman from Texas had a HUGE impact on that war. He literally found ways to fund the Afghan Mujahedeen fighters with modern weaponry; the KEY item being shoulder mounted surface-to-air missiles (Stinger's). This enabled the Afghans to down Soviet helo's and that started the downfall. More weapons followed (wire guided missiles, heavy weapons, etc., and the Soviets were suddenly involved in a war they were NOT prepared to fight with a conscript army that did NOT want to be there.
b. What strategic benefits are gained by being there?
Answer: Initially it was a method of removing open terrorist training camps that flourished under the Taliban government. A by-product was to remove the Taliban from control of a hugely impoverished nation that made its living by growing opium poppies and selling opium/heroin worldwide (read: mostly to the US).
c. What do we hope to accomplish? What are our goals?
Answer: Tougher questions to answer. Its easy to say "...to bring a democratic government to the Afghan people, to enable them a better way of life, etc...etc...but that's not realistic and worse, it's not fair/right. The Afghan way of life is tribal; first and foremost. Second, its a religious lifestyle, with the family/tribal focus on faith, tribe, community. I think our goals/hopes would be to deny terrorist groups a locale where they can train and inculcate their dogma to low-educated groups with the end-goal of recruitment for combat/terror operations. If we can help the Afghan people to create more than a tribal theocracy that is "backward" compared to other nations of the world, that's fine, but not terribly realistic, IMHO.
d. Do we hope that it will become another Iraq?
Answer: Not sure what you mean here. Iraq...working towards a non-sectarian parliamentarian democracy (kinda like Turkey)...may actually get there, eventually. But again, Iraq, like MANY of the nations in the region, is TRIBAL. People are loyal to God (Allah) and their TRIBE, first and foremost. The concept of a nation-state in the entire middle-eastern region is really a by-product of the Sykes-Picot Treaty back in WWI. These nations didn't really have governments like we "prefer" back then. Heck...the "Saudi's" weren't: they were nomadic tribes joined together in a...wait for it....HOLY JIHAD against the infidel Turks in WWI, trained/aided by the British. Remember T.E. Lawrence? He helped the House of Saud to form a nation.
Just my opinion on this and more learned folks may/probably DO have differing opinions and that's GREAT! Discussion/debate are great things to enhance learning and I love that!
LONG TERM bottom line: we're going to be in both places for quite a few more years.
The best answer is often the most simple answer.
We are going to fight Islamic Al-Qaeda terrorists who have nothing but jihad on their agenda. It's unavoidable. Rather than wait to be attacked, an offensive strategy is necessary on our part.
As long as we are free-thinking liberty loving people in the United States (here) and they are obsessed with controlling the world with an every-increasing area of an Islamic Sharia-based system of Government (there).
You want to fight them over there, or here?
I vote over there.
We went into Afghanistan for two reasons. 1. Al Quaeda was there, and had just run the 9/11 attacks. 2. The Taliban government supported Al Quaeda. We wanted both groups gone.
The Soviets invaded to prop up a communist government (that was clearly failing). The Soviets commited themselves to a political goal that was not realistic, then conducted their campaign in ways that no reasonable Afghan would say, "They seem like the kind of government I want."
The US has been working to make Afghanistan a stable nation. We wanted to see them become a strong constitutional democracy, but I think we are willing to settle for a stable and reasonably just government (of whatever form). Currently, we are engaged in trying to stabilize the area and hunt down remaining Taliban/Al Quaeda insurgents.
IMO, the chances of Afghanistan having a strong central government, operating under liberal, democratic ideals are pretty low. However, having a stable government that does not allow massive amounts of terrorist training/support to occur is a reasonable goal.
Okay, couldn't we use the same reasoning to be in Iran or Pakistan?
I'm just trying to understand the importance or significance of Afghanistan.
There really is very little in the media about it-you have to dig to find information about it.
...and why do Democrats support it?
Appreciate the opinions.
Iran does support terrorists, but not to the extent that the Taliban provided. Also, Iran is a tougher nut to crack overall. The Taliban made the immediate post-9/11 hit list pretty easily. Al Quaeda was in Afghanistan and the Taliban supported/turned a blind eye. Iran is more complex.
Iraq was about WMDs (and the confirmation bias the Bush Administration, Congress, and others had about Saddam's intents and capabilities). The US (and some others) believed most of the doom and gloom intelligence, but failed to examine conflicting information with the same rigour. Fiasco by Tom Ricks would be a decent place to start reading about that situation.
Pakistan is an ally, currently. They don't have firm control over parts of their country, but they are trying to deal with Al Quaeda and others. It would be awkward and destabilizing for the US to take any major action not requested by the Pakistani government. We've already been conducting small scale strikes with unmanned vehicles, which provides enough tension already, IMO. The region is pretty fragile. Pakistan's government is not that stable. India, Pakistan, and China have longstanding territorial disputes. It is in the US's interests not to "rock the boat" too much in Pakistan.
Afghanistan was the prime supporter of Al Quaeda before we took out the Taliban. The Taliban gave AQ a place to train and base their operations from. This, of course, was unacceptable to the US after 9/11. The Taliban weren't interested in our desire to catch Al Quaeda members, so the conflict became pretty apparent...Al Quaeda and the Taliban stay, or they both go...
(None of this is official policy statments, just my opinion based on reading news reports and some books.)
Both sides generally supported going into Afghanistan because the organization responsible for 9/11 was there, and the Taliban government supported them. "The friend of my enemy is my enemy" to twist the old phrase. It was a clear response to what was one of the worst attacks against US soil in history (more deaths than even Pearl Harbor!)
I believe another reason you guys may not have discussed and must be thrown into the equation is the oil that is in the Middle East. I believe they are the 3rd largest importer of oil but this doesn't mean they couldn't be the first, which is currently Canada. I guess what do you guys thinnk about that? Seemed to make sense in my eyes.
Governments in the ME (yes, even our supposedly "solid allies" like Israel) have never really been fully trustworthy. I've always wondered why we pour billions and fork over millions of dollars of weaponry and technology, usually unconditionally, to countries like Israel, Pakistan etc. when their loyalty and willingness to help us is questionable. Afghanistan is no question, and Western intelligence agencies are now fearing that our money may be finding its way to the hands of the very people we're trying to kill.
Son (Nat. Guard) and husband think it's the strategic position that is important to us. Son thinks we will be there for a long, long time.
Regional stability in the ME is fairly important to US economic interests. That was a large part of why we went into Iraq. We thought Saddam was gearing for another power play in the ME, with WMDs. Turns out, many of our intel analyses were in error.
The "it was for the oil" crowd usually seems to say we wanted to milk low cost oil from Iraq, which isn't accurate. Just look at the expenditures. Iraq can't even pay for its own reconstruction with the oil revenues it has taken in.
Now, if they meant we went because we were concerned about the oil prices and exports across OPEC, then they might have a point.
As far as regional positioning, there are better ways than invasion! The US already has bases in places like Turkey and Qatar.
"He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression." -Thomas Paine
In short, in order to preserve our nation it is in our interest to defend the citizens of Afghanistan by limiting the effects of the Taliban on the Afghans.
Chockstock: as far as giving weapons, money, ect. to ME governments, well...we can't be in every ME country at the same time and/or indefinitely. Thus, we must place some trust and reliance in some of them.
Disagree with first statement. Defending the citizens of Afghanistan is not our job - its the job of the Afghan government. No matter how unstable the situation might get for Afghanistan or the ME, I dont think its worth the American tax money (or should I say credit), time, effort, and most importantly, lives to protect out interests/allies. The whole purpose of the War on Terror should have been based on protecting American lives, not killing terrorists. They are like weeds that grow through the cracks of your driveway - TBH I see no end to the killings. Muslim extremism won't end simply because the US/NATO thinks creating a nation out of thin air will somehow stabilize the reason. The future of Afghanistan lies in the hands of Afghans, not the hands of Americans.
We should never have gone into either country
Why should we be in every ME country in the first place? Is it really only because of our dysfunctional relationship with Israel and our oil interests? I don't see why America needs to stick its nose anywhere, unless our nation is legitimately threatened. And if terrorists and suicide bombers are the chief threat, I dont see why we have to take the fight over there - maybe we should have tried spending all that money/credit/US Treasury bonds on beefing up airport/immigration security back home?
What I meant was that in order to protect our nation from the forces that were responsible for 9/11 and other attempted attacks take their roots in the ME. It is our mission to prevent terrorism from spreading and affecting OUR country. In order to do this, we must have support and allies in the ME, or we are fighting a lost cause. Thomas Paine meant to say- in my opinion- that if a free nation allows oppression to foster, grow, and propagate throughout the world, it will inevitably find its way into that free nation.
Hindsight is 20/20. We could have, should have___ fill in the blank. What matters is we are there NOW, and it is important that we accomplish the goals we set.
Playing defense only is a poor choice. In order to win at that game, we would have to be 100% successful in stopping attackers. The only way to do that is to abandon the core principles that made our country.
A determined and intelligent enemy WILL find and exploit gaps you leave in a system. It is simply a matter of time and determination.
This isn't a binary choice between trying to be the "world police" and passive defenses. Neither option is viable in the real world. What we need to do is find a suitable balance. That is where smart people's opinions vary--what balance of offensive and defensive counter-terrorism tactics is appropriate?
Whether we decide to invade and totally wreck a country or not, we STILL have to be 100% successful at curtailing terrorists and terror plots, wouldn't you agree? I don't see how "containing" the terrorists in two countries will somehow make our country safer - even after nearly a decade in either country, a terrorist almost managed to create catastrophe by hiding a bomb in his underwear last Christmas. He was from Nigeria. Does that mean that we should invade Nigeria, completely strip the country down, commit American tax money, time, effort, and American LIVES to create a "friendly, stable, moderate" government that will somehow continue to make anti-terrorist/anti-corruption decisions once we have left?
I do not understand what you mean by "abandoning our core principles". It is not the job of America to provide liberty and human rights to the four corners of the Earth. Such a goal is unattainable and impractical. Unfortunately, we have only acted as a nation when our national interests were directly at stake - if we didn't we would have invaded or struck China, Iran, N. Korea already or intervened in past human rights crisis areas like Rwanda, Bosnia, or Tibet, all in the name of providing freedom to all oppressed people. As it is with Iraq and Afghanistan, the future of such countries in is in the hands of their own people, not the hands of Americans and certainly not in the pockets of American citizens.
And that is where most of us fail to see the actual problem. Today, our actions in Afghanistan and until recently, Iraq, are not strictly limited to capturing/killing insurgents. It would be a perfect world if our role in either country was limited to that - unfortunately, its not. We went into both countries with the goal to avenge the deaths of 9/11 and prevent such an attack from occuring ever again. Yet, our military was not fully prepared for that kind of actions since Vietnam and it was costly to learn on the job. We're still learning. What was much more costly was that we went in without preparing to commit to nation-building. Nobody knew that we would have to commit to such a role - and now we are. We need to realize that our initial goal to kill terrorists has now morphed to a goal of "protecting the Afghan people and winning their trust" and somehow "re-creating an entire government that is free of sectarian violence, corruption, and incompetence." What was once a monumental challenge is now an impossible endeavor.
The question of balance you ask should not even be a question to ask ourselves. As long as countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran (throw in Pakistan as well) continue to discreetly harbor terrorists or are simply too weak to do prevent it, the matter of "offensive counter-terrorism" tactics will last forever. Wait, let me take that back - such tactics would last until China stops buying our Treasury bonds and wreck havoc into our basic government functions, including supporting the twin wars we are waging.
Yes, we need to successfully defend against terrorism. That cannot be done by simply deterring specific plots via high security. They'll simply move on to a more vulnerable area. The only way to remotely "win" a purely defensive action would be to become a police state, thereby abandoning many of our nation's core principles.
US leaders are realizing we cannot remake countries into our image. We are not trying to do that. That's why Afghanistan is an Islamic nation by law. It's why they don't allow their citizens to exercise the same rights that the US does.
I agree. The difficult thing about fighting terrorism is that all it takes is a few people in an apartment room anywhere in the world to create a terror cell, and there isn't much we can do about that. I agree 100% that we need to eradicate the taliban and al-quaida from the Afghanistan/Pakistan border region; the tough part (something I think will be a big challenge in future years) is that terror groups can simply find other places to operate. The christmas day airplane bombing attempt was carried out by an al-quaida terrorist operating from Yemen.
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