Why the Hell are we still in Afghanistan?

Seriously. What, exactly, are we seeking to accomplish there, and how will we know when we’ve done it?

As I understand the situation, we invaded largely because we wanted to kick some ass after 9/11 and the folks that planned it live there. Ok, fine. We’ve killed a metric shitload of people over there. Being in a generous mood as I type this, I’ll just assume that most of those people were, in some way, connected to international terrorism when they were not herding yaks, or whatever the hell they did for a living. We appear to be unable to locate Osama bin Laden. Afghanistan ain’t ever gonna become a bastion of freedom. We’re spending a lot of money to sustain the war, and I caught a clip of some General saying he needs more troops and more time. To do what is entirely unclear to me.

What are the victory conditions in this game? What should we do to accomplish them? What is a workable exit strategy?

I’m afraid that there are no clearly defined victory conditions, and no currently existing exit strategy, but I welcome enlightenment…

Well, ISTM that the actual goals were to capture OBL, and deny Al Qaeda a freindly base of operations. Neither seem to be accomplished at the moment. Since we differ on the goals, we probably disagree on their likelihood of being completed.

Wouldn’t the capture of OBL be more a symbolic achievement than something that would reduce Al Qaeda’s activities? Are they actually dependent on his leadership?

Everything I’ve heard about the West’s goals has been couched in vague terms such as ‘deny Al Qaeda a friendly base of operations’. There must be indicators that would show that we have achieved that goal. It may be that when terrorist activities cease in the West, it could be said that we have succeeded in Afghanistan. But that would presuppose that Al Qaeda don’t just move somewhere else.

Yes, this is why there is an international coalition helping the US in Afghanistan.
Of course it should have been a military operation with a time limit, since the Afghan tribesmen are well used to fighting invaders (and were well supplied with weapons by the US when the Soviet Union invaded).

Bush lost interest in hunting Bin Laden and invaded Iraq for spurious reasons. Another operation with no goals, no time limit and a huge cost in lives and money.

I find it really depressing that US politicians go in for this stuff just to get re-elected.

Of course the largest lunatic policy is the ‘War on Drugs’, which results in billions of dollars being spent annually on unsuccessfully trying to lower the flow of drugs, whilst imprisoning millions of Americans.

Permanent bases for regional hegemony would be my guess. If we can craft a friendlyish client state that would be cool too.

So you’re saying that we’re never going to leave Afghanistan?

It would be hard to imagine a situation worse than Afghanistan. We have no reliable Afghan government, we are ina landlocked country which makes us dependent upon Pakistan for resupply, and we are facing an army of fanatics-unemployed young men with a desire to die, and a foe with unlimited money (from Afghan opium). Because we seem to think that having a democratic Afghan government will solve everything, we keep pressing them to have elections-which are meaningless to most Aghans.
In short, we have set ourselves up for disaster-but we cannot seem to learn our lessons. I suppose if we stayed for 100 years, we might have a chance, but how much is this worth? I don’t see it.
If we spent one tenth (of wha we are blowing on this war) on border security, we coul insure that no AlQueda attack would ever touch us. But, the dreary spectacle of more military funerals, more gravely injured young men goes on.:frowning:

The recent elections in Afghanistan, which brought in a US-friendly President, are widely recognised as corrupt.

So from the point of view of your average Afghani tribesman:

  1. The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and set up their puppet in power.
    Lots of Afghanis died.

  2. The US supplied locals with weapons to defeat the Soviet Union invaders.
    Lots of Afghanis died.

  3. The Taliban came to power and fought with local Warlords.
    Lots of Afghanis died.

  4. The US-led coalition invaded to:

  • find Bin Laden
  • defeat the Taliban
  • stop heroin smuggling

Lots of Afghanis died.

  1. The US-led coalition has completely failed to:
  • find Bin Laden
  • defeat the Taliban
  • stop heroin smuggling

Lots of Afghanis died.

  1. The US-led coalition has put a puppet in charge of the country.

Lots of Afghanis died.

Your suggestion of setting up US bases and keeping a fraud in power is going to lead to massive guerilla warfare.
And of course, lots of Afghanis will die.

I think this line of thought was really pushed as an excuse for why we were cutting back in Afghanistan to make room for going to Iraq. It made no sense to me then, and makes little now. This guy is the head of the organization that put 3000 of our people in the ground, and killing him would just be a symbolic achievement? I want everyone who intended to be involved in the planning or financing of the 9/11 attacks to be killed. It is an outrage that over 8 years have passed and this still hasn’t happened.

I share Oakminster’s dismay at the lack of articulated goals for this conflict. My personal wish for how the war should be conducted is that we identify which members of Al Qaeda we deem responsible for this act and all others that have pissed us off, inform the Afghan people and those in the NW Tribal Areas that we are grabbing these specific men if the Afghanis/Pakistanis won’t give them up, and killing anyone that interferes with our quest.

We will make mistakes. There will be chieftains that will not believe at first that we are serious. Their villages will be entered and resistance eliminated. Unfortunately, a whole of innocent people will also suffer. On the flip side, if they give up the 30 to 40 guys we want, or just let us look in the spots we want, there’s plenty of cash and goodies for everybody. I can’t think of a gentler, easier way to persuade the decision-makers in that part of the world. I think you’re going to have to level two or three villages before the message sinks in. And that’s absolutely awful.

The most important part of all this is to inform the Afghanis that once we have the 30 or 40 guys we want, we are leaving and not coming back, unless they allow shitheads like Al Qaeda to set up shop again. (In that case, we’ll present another list of guys and/or demand to remove the camp, while reserving the right to just carpet bomb the area where the camp is. Police yourself, or we will do it for you.)

We won’t give a shit about installing a democracy, or female suffrage, bringing that area out of the 11th century, burning poppy fields, or doing anything else that irritates the Pashtun-in-the-street. Reassure them they’ll be left alone, just so long as we get those 30-40 guys. Their domestic policies are not our problem, unless they let terrorists set up shop again.

Basically, I want the people in that region of the world to police the terrorist problem for us, for fear of the U.S. coming back.

I’m sorry: I didn’t factor in the revenge element. But you haven’t addressed my question: would the killing of OBL hinder Al Qaeda’s operations?

I feel this may raise a few hackles in the US and Europe. I can’t speak for Al Qaeda, but I always thought their attitude is that it is immaterial if innocents suffer so long as they achieve what they see as the greater good. So we’d be using their tactics and sacrificing any higher moral ground we may have. Though I don’t think Al Qaeda is very concerned about anyone’s moral grounds, and if I understand your views correctly, neither are you.

Let me get this straight. You will carpet bomb villages until they give up the 30 or 40 you say are responsible? And you will continue to do this until the men are surrendered, or there are no more villages left? Do we know who these men are? Won’t more insurgents just take their place? Don’t forget that we are dealing with people who don’t give a shit about human life - their’s or anybody else’s. I can see a situation where the Americans say ‘give up the insurgents, or we’ll carpet bomb you’, and Al Qaeda saying ‘if you give up our members, we’ll wipe out the whole village’. I think the villagers might be faced with a no win situation.

Does your policy apply to other countries known to harbour Al Qaeda members? Sudan and the UK to name but two.

There just has to be a better way than this. I don’t know what it is; I don’t think it’s what we’re doing at the moment, but I’m also not convinced of the efficacy of your methods.

Could you please explain the bolded comment? I admit, my understanding of law is not perfect, but this man committed a serious crime not only against the United States but against the world. He masterminded and carried out a plot to kill over 3,000 people. He has continued to encourage extremist actions in the name of a far fringe sect of his religion. He is a dangerous criminal and should be brought to trial to answer for those crimes.

As I understand it, we’re occupying a space so as to deny it to Al Queda, and justifying it though pretty curious moral and other convoluted means.

Of course the problem is the usual one, the folks that inhabit that space want it back.

I have to say the more sophisticated these drones get, the less is the case for the physical occupation of what we call ‘Afganistan’ and the local people call “our lands”.

It’s got to the point where the imperial forces do more damage to Al-Queda from 30,000 feet and remotely from Colorado or wherever than they do bumping around in patrol vehicles.

Ultimatley no one gives a fuck about the Taliban or Afghanistan anyway - no votes in that, it’s all about denying Al Queda safe haven.

Yes, I’m sorry. That statement was a product of, and reaction to, my understanding of the tone of the whole post: that many innocents could/should be killed to achieve the West’s aims. I, of course, agree that OBL should be found and brought to justice (as should anyone else involved in the atrocities).

Ah, thank you; I appreciate the clarification.

In response to your question: I do not know what impact killing or capturing OBL* would have on the rest of Al Qaida. Certainly he is looked to as a leader and someone to emulate by the rest of the movement. I feel there would be at least some emotional impact on those within the organization.

Had we found, tried and convicted him quickly in the World Court instead of getting distracted and going off on the Iraq tangent? Yes. I think it would have made a serious impact. Now? Hard to say really. The impact of the message would be muted most certainly. It goes without saying the situation was handled all kinds of wrong and we have lost the high ground we once had.
*preferably the latter

The US wants ‘regional hegemony’ over a vaste wasteland. Something like that. But some of these countries have oil! So what, lots of countries have oil.

Or they want to ‘install democracy’ so that Afghanistan won’t be ruled by groups like the Taliban which support militant Islamic terrorism directly or indirecty (by giving Al-Queda types a base of operations).

I think the latter is true, but it’s a pretty tall order. How do you “install democracy” when they only have a history of tribal barbarism?

I think the install democracy one is true

Tried him in a World Court? And what would that have done? Does the world court have a world police force to enforce an arrest warrant in the Pakistani hinterlands?

Would he have recognized the legitimacy of said court and turned himself in immediately?

What on earth are you blathering about?

Should he be tried in the US judicial system? If so, how could the US charge him for crimes against Great Britain and the other countries he harmed? What other court has the kind of wide sweeping jurisdiction necessary? And of course, I should have said “International Criminal Court,” not World Court as the WC deals with states and the ICC deals with individuals.

I share the OP’s frustration. I think others have articulated why we supposedly are there, although I am not confident we can accomplish those goals. Especially since Bin Laden et al have effectively moved their operation to Pakistan. They don’t really need Afghanistan anymore.

I read in the paper today that Obama has given a report to Congress on how he is going to measure success. I believe there are 50 metrics listed, although I don’t think the report is available for public view (I could be wrong on that last part).

Quagmire. Plain and simple.

I think trying OBL would likely be a disaster. The U.S. doesn’t want to comproimise sources of intelligence, and likely can’t convict on evidence properly admissable in a criminal court without compromising those sources. If he’s found, he needs to be killed. Armed drone, missile strike, aerial bombardment, sniper…whatever works. I’m not seeing how the continued occupation of Afghanistan furthers that particular goal.

Frankly, at this point we seem to be there because we’re there, and leaving would be admitting weakness. Or something.