This forgotten war kills about 3,000 civilians and 10,000 Taliban fighters each year.
A black hole, a dead end, but, above all, a forgotten war — that is the conflict in Afghanistan today. A war that leaves an average of 3,000 civilians and 10,000 Taliban fighters dead each year. On the side of the U.S. led coalition, 3,539 soldiers have died since 2001.
Despite these figures, contrary to what was promised in his election campaign, Trump announced last Monday that he had decided to send more troops to Afghanistan, and while not specifying the number of troops, he felt the announcement was necessary to remind many people that a war still rages in this Asian nation of difficult terrain, which began 16 years ago and shows no sign of coming to an end. There will be more U.S. soldiers, but the weight of the Taliban will continue to fall on the Afghan army.
And when George W. Bush’s administration decided to venture there in 2001, only those who knew the level of the complexity of their society and, in general, the history of this territory, feared whether that effort would succeed.
Those fears came true. There is nothing more eye-opening than that which the U.S. faces today: that the inability of U.S. leaders to visualize what would be, in concrete terms, the victory they crave. They are trying to force a negotiation with the Taliban, which in recent times have gotten their second wind thanks to the rise to key positions of members of the dreaded Haqqani clan, responsible for the bloodiest attacks in Kabul. These extremists control about 40 percent of the country’s territory; and the more the discredit of the current administration grows due to insecurity and terrorism, the better the extremists’ prospects and the more difficult an eventual seat at the table will be.
The United States persists in a strategy that seeks to prevent Afghanistan from being a sanctuary for terrorists. However, it resists both an intervention on a larger scale and resists work which rather than focusing on the military, would aim to build a robust institution that definitively cuts off oxygen to extremists with full support and commitment from Washington. The truth is that neither of these alternatives is, for the time being, viable, and the ghost of Vietnam still stalks the United States.