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Why Afghanistan is Important

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.


  1. Wanumba has his history wrong – the Carter administration was sending weapons to anti-Soviet Islamist groups *before* the USSR invaded. In fact Brzezinski later admitted this was done for the expressed purpose of provoking the USSR to invade Afghanistan.

    Bin Laden was not back in Afghanistan until 1996 after Kabul fell to the Taliban, which didn’t even develop until 1994. The US openly supported the Taliban until 1998 and working with them on oil pipeline plans. Of course Pakistan’s security forces worked closely with the up until (and after?) 9/11. The was supported by the US as some saw the possibility of Afghanistan becoming a puppet state of the US allied Pakistan.

    As to the present day, the facts are that there is little support in Afghanistan for continued US presence and the US backed regime is unpopular in most of the country. The situation is horrible but I see no evidence that continued US presence is going to result in a ‘stabilization’ or ‘democratization.’ How long will we need to be there – probably decades and I do not think that is in anyone’s best interest.

    Lastly, the idea of a Caliphate with Iran and the rest of the region completely ignores the fact the Iran is Shi’ite and ethnically distinct from Arab countries. India and Iran have quite close relations and India is not ‘fearful’ of Iran.

  2. Afghanistan is strategic? LMAO.

    Only for oil and gas pipelines.

    Did you just say you believe the US should have a military presence there for DECADES?

    Are you a DEMOCRAT? The next thing I think we’re going to hear from you is that we should pay a WAR TAX to support the “critical mission” in Afghanistan.

    I’ll tell you where you can go stick that idea!

  3. Basil St. John says

    It’s funny how we didn’t read anything on this blog about committing more troops and “winning” this war when the Bush administration missing the real opportunity to do years ago, before things got to today’s mess.

  4. So US taxpayers should pay and US soldiers should die so that Afghanistan can be protected from an expansionistic China?

    Afghanistan is not part of the US and should not be defended by US troops.

    The cost of the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq are paid through the sweat and toil of US taxpayers. How many people would be able to avoid eviction from their homes if the US government didn’t feel the need to buy drone that cost millions per aircraft.

  5. Author’s note:
    wanumba lived in India, spoke with Indians who explained their perspective on Pakistan, the conflict in Kashmir and the threat to India’s security. wanumba has traveled thru Pakistan from Karachi, through Rawalpindi and Islamabad, up into the remote Karakorams to Skardu, Gilgit and Hunzu.

    It has been obvious to this author that most Americans are woefully uneducated as to the region, the geopolitical significance of the Tehran-Kabul-Islamabad corridor, of the radical Islamofascism that is active in the former Soviet Republics of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan and how Afghanistan sits as a doorway to the entire region. America, at this moment in time holds the key. The argument to abandon Afghanistan ignores the price that America, Afghanistan and the world will pay for a policy that would hand our victories to our enemies. Not just grotesquely absurd, but incredibly dangerous, not only to the USA but to her allies.

  6. “Are you a DEMOCRAT? The next thing I think we’re going to hear from you …”
    Mindless, parroting stereotyping attempts to strike again.

    If people spent more time TRAVELING and less time “googling” they might learn a few useful things.

  7. Wan,

    Fascism, look it up, means

    A political ideology that seeks to combine radical and authoritarian nationalism with a corporatist economic system.

    Fascists advocate the creation of a single-party state.

    According to Mussolini, the founder of fascism and the fascist party,
    “All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.”

    By the very definition of what you are describing as “islamofascism”, it is in fact the antithesis of fascism as the people you state we are fighting are fighting to deconstruct the nation structure, including muslim nation-states such as Pakistan.

    I’ve travelled plenty around the world and have lived abroad.

    What you write is logical nonsense.

    You are the one advocating the idea of Mussolini’s quote:
    “All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.”

  8. “Oberserve Says:
    November 25th, 2009 at 10:19 am
    By the very definition of what you are describing as “islamofascism”, it is in fact the antithesis of fascism as the people you state we are fighting are fighting to deconstruct the nation structure, including muslim nation-states such as Pakistan.”

    I have used the term “Islamofascism” as a contemporary terminology that came into common usage after 9/11 as people were not satisfied with a generic term of “terrorism” when “terror” is actually a TACTIC of warfare, not a clarification or identification of the ideology or the enemy itself which was employing said tactic.
    With radical Islam stated as religion and government as one, many people felt that “Islamofascism” as a term indeed captured better the core essence of the ideology of the Islamic terrorists. The “deconstruction” you argue is of the existing secular governments to replace them with a radical Islamic, centralized, highly State(Mosque)-controlled governmental structure, absorbing by conquest independent nations into one government, identified by the Al-Qaeda leaders like Bin Laden as the “Caliphate,” a restoration and expansion of the height of Muslim conquest, known as the “Ottoman Empire,” not no government.

    The main governing feature of the Ottoman Empire was “despotism” so if you’d like, you could urge the use of “Islamodespotism” rather than “Islamofascism,” or maybe the mouthful, “Islamototalitarianism.”
    But with the intent of all functions of society directed by the Islamic State, as manifested in IRAN, then the use of “Islamofascism” is correct.
    The intent of these terms is to WARN the reader of destruction of Democracies, free markets, freedom of religion, the denigration of the value of the individual to the lordship of the STATE, and so forth.

    There are several countries today which proclaim themselves to be “Islamic Republics,” but the religion does not dominate the society the way the Revolutionary Iranian regime dominates Iranian society and production,or the Al-Qaeda leadership intends to dominate conquered or absorbed nations into the Caliphate. Rhetoric must be compared with actual actions to determine the truth of what’s going on.

    While Pakistan calls itself an Islamic Republic, the radical Taliban thinks it isn’t Islamic ENOUGH and are waging insurgency to undermine what THEY perceive as a moderate or liberal and absolutely inadequately Muslim government. Plenty of Pakistanis are not interested in restrictive, oppressive and all-encompassing totalitarian governance, and believe that the Taliban are dangerously off Islam as they desire to practice it.

    AS for advocating anything, we are advocating that AMericans get up to speed on AFghanistan in order to be better informed as to the incredible importance of America’s presence in AFghanistan.

    People understand the geopolitical importance of US troops in shattered Germany for half a century, people understand the importance of US troops at the DMZ separating the two Koreas, for almost half a century, so can Americans understand what the Afghans face, and the magnitude of the loss of US prestige and US tactical and strategic positions in Asia if the US was to cut and run from a fight, from a measurably weaker and less competent force, hardly even qualifying as a “military,” leaving an ally to twist in the wind.

  9. So that’s all you got wanumba? Your facts are wrong and conclusions suspect but we should just really believe you because you have been to India and talked to real Indians.

    Look, of course India wants the US to remain in Afghanistan – this is the best way to get militants out of Kashmir as the thought of attacking US troops is a much more attractive prospect for true believers. The real question is why we should be falling into that trap and continuing this occupation which, based on history and current circumstances, is certain to fail.

  10. PS. Not only does Afghanistan act like a magnet for extremists, the continued violence there and along the border with Pakistan forces Pakistan to focus energies there instead of Kashmir.

  11. todd Says:
    November 25th, 2009 at 12:04 pm
    So that’s all you got wanumba? Your facts are wrong and conclusions suspect but we should just really believe you because you have been to India and talked to real Indians.
    Sure. It’s better and more reliable than your totally unsubstantiated position which consists of huffing and puffing and stomping your foot with a prissy “Todd says so!”

    What do you think of Michelle Obama’s dress for the Obama’s first State Dinner last night?

  12. Wanumba – I have pointed to your factual accuracies and you are the one putting forward theories with no evidence.

  13. Wanmba,

    You are really giving chewie a run for his money as the worst author on here. DSW needs to clean this blog up.

  14. todd Says:
    November 25th, 2009 at 4:11 pm
    Wanumba – I have pointed to your factual accuracies
    Oh, thanks!

  15. johnny Says:
    November 25th, 2009 at 6:26 pm

    You are really giving chewie a run for his money as the worst author on here. DSW needs to clean this blog up.
    Wouldn’t it be easier to do some self-study on the region and get up to speed so you can add some erudite comments instead of grumbling?
    It’s astonishing to read of so many people just clamping their hands over their ears and eyes rather than making the effort to find out what’s going on.
    But since there are those who don’t THINK they don’t want to know, I was inspired to write another commentary to get everyone in the know, so you too can drop exotic Sikh warrior names like Manmohan Singh at the water cooler like a savvy diplomat.

  16. My Afghani friends tell me that US needs to get out of Afghanistan and take the fight where it belongs – Pakistan.

    Afghanistan was the downfall of the Russian empire, our continued involvement in that country will be our downfall.

  17. “Afghanistan was the downfall of the Russian empire, our continued involvement in that country will be our downfall.”
    THe Soviets were responsible for their downfall, by investing in a statist, collectivist, non-growth and stifling system of government, hated by their own people and the subjugated people under their control – it was ultimately unsustainable. Ronald Reagan figured out a strategy to nudge the collapsing government to IMPLODE, and collapse on itself, rather than explode. The Soviet efforts to prop up their puppet in Afghanistan was one of several straws that broke the camel’s back -it wasn’t the only reason.
    It didn’t take long at all for the US-backed Northern Alliance to crush the Taliban line and sweep the fleeing Taliban from the field. Taliban are now using the semi-autonomous Tribal zones of Pakistan to shelter in, between harrssing raids and operations inside Afghanistan. But at the moment, Pakistan is still nominally a US ally, and the current Pakistan government is NOT interested in the style of governing desired by the radical Taliban. They aren’t perfect by any means, and are heavily infiltrated by radicals, but they are threatened by the Taliban and are absolutely targeted by the Taliban, so it’s in everyone’s interests to keep the moderates in power in Pakistan. Any US unilateral barging-in would provoke a national outrage, undermining the sitting government.
    Pakistan has FAR more of an infrastructure than Afghanistan. Afghanistan is completely vunerable to attack and conquest by ANY of its neighbors. Bin Laden, a foreign multi-millionaire did not find it difficult to dominate the nation after he arrived to set up shop. Iran would have no trouble seizing what it wanted – just drive over the international border. But who’s to say CHINA isn’t interested? It’s also next door and has already seized part of India and all of Tibet for China. ANd PAKISTAN might go for it – especially if radicals get their way. Of course Afghans want Americans to go home. It’s not even an insult. Nations like Afghanistan, Pakistan and India are very very sensitive to ANYTHING “foreign,” to the point of codifying discrimination – foreigners get higher prices for everything.
    Afghans wouldn’t want to see CHinese or Paksitanis knocking at their doors.
    The Afghan reputation of “graveyard of armies” isn’t ironclad. High tech military does have a measurable effect on low-tech opponents. But dribs and drabs and dither dither isn’t helpful at all.

  18. Cheer up guys!

    Wanumba has been either “Neo-Conned” or Hannitized!

  19. Carlist Says:
    November 27th, 2009 at 12:07 pm
    Cheer up guys!

    Wanumba has been either “Neo-Conned” or Hannitized!
    Gotta think outside the box! wanumba used to work with a Kenyan tribal group (Bukusu) which ambushes and circumcises guys from Obama’s father’s tribal group (Luos) – for sport.

    WHO KNEW that would be oddly relevent 20 years later in American politics?

  20. Hmmmm!

    So let’s invade Kenya and save it for democracy!

    We’ll even set up N.G.O.s under military protection. The gals from N.A.R.A.L. and Planned Parenthood will bring those tribes to heel!

    Not to mention the San Francisco contingent which also will pass on our new cultural principles!

    Procreation will cease and everything will be taken care of!

  21. Too late, it’s already been done.

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