Why Afghanistan is Important
Afghanistan is a geographically and geopolitically strategic nation in central Asia. Six countries share its borders: Pakistan, China, Iran and three former Soviet Republics, now independent but heavily Russian-influenced Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. From Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul, the capital of Pakistan, Islamabad, is only 235 miles away, via the famous Khyber Pass. The capital of Delhi, India is just 624 miles away, closer to Kabul, Afghanistan than Dallas, Texas is to New York City. Pakistan’s road network reaches from Islamabad, along the Indus River Valley, and connects with the ancient Silk Road. China is just a few hours away, bordering both Afghanistan and Pakistan at the Karakorum Mountain Range. Along many of these same roads however, Pakistan’s central government controls just the roadway itself, the areas to the right and left of the tarmac have never been controlled, they have and remain the domain of local Tribal governance.
Afghanistan’s recent history has been one of terrible war and strife. In 1979, Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan to prop up the crumbling Soviet puppet-government. American President Carter reacted by boycotting the Soviets through the Olympics and US grain contracts, but President Reagan armed the Afghans to drive the Soviets out. The Soviet Union withdrew, its economy collapsing under the last straw of an expensive and brutal war. The Afghan warlords, seeing a central government power vacuum began a bloody civil war in 1989 vying for dominance. One faction, Islamofascists called the Taliban, by 1992 began asserting dominance with the help of Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden who’d been searching for a safe haven and base since being booted from his home country of Saudi Arabia and then from Sudan.
Secure in his new home and envisioning the rebirth of the Islamic Caliphate from Spain to China, Bin Laden perceived America as the most serious military threat to his vision, and gave material and planning support to terrorist attacks against America and Americans, such as the Khobar Towers and the USS Cole bombings before the 9/11 attacks. To Bin Laden’s eternal surprise and dismay, America arrived in Afghanistan to fortify the last remnants of the Afghan free resistance, the Northern Alliance, just weeks after 9/11 and Al-Qaeda’s September 9, 2001 brutal assassination of the Northern Resistance’s general, Ahmed Shah Massoud, the Lion of Panjshir, a killing meant to be the coup de grace against the Northern Alliance’s military capabilities. Backed by the US military, the revitalized Northern Alliance was able to break the Taliban front lines and sent the Taliban into a running retreat, and Afghanistan into a national celebration of victory from years of Taliban despotism.
Today, Afghanistan is sheltered under US military protection as it rebuilds its shattered and eviscerated nation. Deforestation, degraded agriculture, opium trade and a ruined infrastructure hold back a nation that didn’t have much freedom to develop its cities and towns or exploit any of its natural resources over the past forty years. Worse, the remnant Taliban continues to disrupt progress, to wage low level war against the Afghan people and the Afghan government, hoping to destabilize it, hoping to demoralize Americans into quitting. Because of this, no Afghan government for the near future has the means to protect Afghanistan from any foreign aggression.
If the United States leaves, Afghanistan will be completely vulnerable to any one of several dangerous scenarios of invasion: by the Islamofascist Taliban, or an expansionistic communist China, or a radicalized Pakistan or even Russia via the former Soviet states, for Afghanistan has strategic placement for oil pipelines originating in Iran.
But, Iran must be examined closer as the long-recognized source of destabilizing Islamic Revolutionary radicalism in the region. For the first time since the 1979 Iranian Revolution, Iran was bottled up, with American troops in Iraq and American troops in Afghanistan; effectively keeping Iranian mischief-makers trapped at home. Iraq, with more modern and less degraded infrastructure, combined with a well-educated population with a tradition of engineering stretching back to ancient Babylon, is better equipped to take over much of its security, but Afghanistan has never achieved the development of Iraq ,so it gravely lacks in basic self-sufficiency, especially after decades of war and strife. With the presence of US combat troops, both Iraq and Afghanistan have been protected from Iranian invasion. If the US leaves Afghanistan, Iran could easily pour over the border and take control, positioning itself to overthrow the moderate and shaky Pakistan government for their Revolutionary brand of radical regime, which would be an enormously dangerous situation for India. Nuclear war would not be unthinkable if India perceives it is under threat.
The new Caliphate, as understood by wary Hindus in India, would stretch from Iran through Afghanistan, through Pakistan, through India’s northern Kashmir State, run eastwards along the Himalayan Mountain Range to the former East Pakistan, now Bangladesh –to the Muslim regions of China. Whoever holds Afghanistan holds the key to the entire region, to the east and to the west. To have that in hand only to throw it away, would waste years of hard-earned gains and would deprive the Afghans of any hope at a future of self-determination. Worse, it hands America’s enemies strategic positioning which can be used against America and her allies.