News reports claiming the Taliban will attempt to retake control of Afghanistan once NATO troops leave in two years restates the questions: Why did we get involved there in the first place and why are we leaving given this threat?
From an American, and even a Euro perspective, Afghanistan could be another example of the pick and choose hypocrisy the West plays at when dealing with armed conflicts. It comes down to what's their worth to NATO? Afghanistan is no longer worth it. Of course, if the Iraqi oil fields were there?
NATO endured a bloodbath in Bosnia for years before taking any action, yet jumped right into Kuwait once Iraq invaded. We have declined to get involved in Syria, yet NATO immediately became involved in Libya and Iraq the Sequel.
But for Afghanistan, Korea makes a good comparison. As I previously wrote, the Korean War was the first major UN action, lead by the USA. It ended in a stalemate, with around 36,000 American killed and an uneasy truce that has kept the country divided with a large American troop presence still there 62 years later.
On the plus side it enabled South Korea to become an industrial powerhouse. On the negative side is has forged North Korea into a nuclear powerhouse, one that threatens the West.
Today the US has 28,500 troops stationed in Korea still under the UN flag. So, if we maintained a garrison in Korea for 62 years, why wouldn't we do the same in Afghanistan? For open thing, the Korean War ended in a cease-fire and truce. Afghanistan is a totally different situation coming at a radically different era for NATO and the US.
The fact is Afghanistan doesn't mean as much to the West than industrial and friendly South Korea. And, we want to remain in striking distance of nuclear-armed Stone Age North Korea.
Yes, but wouldn't maintaining a strong presence in Afghanistan help NATO keep in touch with another nuclear wild card Pakistan, a near failed state that is becoming more and more unstable and less friendly to America? Yes, but popular opinion is against this and politics often trumps what may seem obvious.
President Obama, with reelection and a never-ending recession on his mind, has put in play operation wind-down until 2014 when the only NATO troops remaining in Afghanistan will be those so-called military advisers. As with Vietnam, they will be there to train Afghan troops on how to keep the Taliban out and America's proxy Afghan President Karzai in... hopefully with more success than we had in Vietnam.
As I said the past, the only concrete reason why we, and other NATO nations, are there is to keep the extreme male chauvinist Muslim Taliban from power and Afghan women out of burkas. The idea of a synonymous linkage between the Taliban and Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda group has never been proven.
Yes, I'm sure they cooperated. While they're different people they had different goals. Bin Laden was a Saudi. He didn't care about Afghanistan. He just hid there and in Pakistan. His main goal, other than converting the world to Islam, was to overthrow the Saudi royal family and kick the US out of his country. The Taliban want to overthrow the Karzai Government and kick the US out of their country. It seems they be accomplishing part of that goal.
But using Korea as an example, given the lives lost and money spent there, wouldn't it seem sensible to maintain a NATO combat unit in Afghanistan as a way of protecting NATO interests? There's little doubt the Taliban will be back. Yet there is considerable doubt Karzai and Company will be able to handle them... He will need NATO... for a long time.
Next year the US will declare its wartime control of South Korea at an end and begin transferring power to South Korea, while possibly cutting back its troop strength there.
South Korea isn't happy at this prospect and wants a clarification of US intentions. Yet, such an action, in light of the planned Afghan pullout, would be one of the few genuine actions taken by the US... even though the motivation is reducing the national debt.
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