While all eyes have been fixed for some time on the refugee crisis stemming from conflicts in Syria and Iraq, the situation in Afghanistan has steadily worsened. The U.S. approach to dealing with the country during both the Bush and Obama years led to a series of bad decisions which has left the country in poverty and at the mercy of jihadi groups.
The original campaign against the Taliban in 2001 was a quick and rapid success for U.S. forces which has not been repeated again yet this century. But the Taliban eventually regrouped and continued to mount a serious fight against Western forces in the country, even after the "surge" of around 30,000 additional American soldiers into the country in 2010.
By involving itself in Afghanistan militarily, the U.S. essentially became responsible for seeing that the country would make some sort of democratic transition during George W. Bush's presidency. But ultimately America's military presence was confounded by uncooperative Afghan elites, a lack of experience among Afghanistan's own security forces, and the likely possibility that the Taliban was receiving protection from forces within Pakistan.
In the 15 years since the U.S.'s original intervention in the country, opium production has increased magnificently after being almost eradicated under Taliban rule and as the country's economy has steadily declined. The presence of foreign troops and NGOs was able to stave off complete economic misery for awhile, but the troops and NGOS have now withdrawn from the country.
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As Professor Robert Crews notes in the New York Times, almost a third of Afghan girls have anemia today. The Taliban has announced a series of campaigns planned for this Spring, while ISIS continues to make advances.
Americans, particularly those who have had responsibility for making important decisions about the nation's policies in Afghanistan, need to own up to the fact that American policy has utterly failed there.
There was the historically ignorant attempt to set up a Western-style democracy there in the wake of 9/11; spending of extravagant funds on "ghost schools" which never ended up being used; complicity in electoral fraud in the country's 2009 presidential election; the support of rapacious militias hated by the population; the bombing of a Doctors Without Borders hospital in 2015; and rapid and simultaneous withdrawals of U.S. troops, foreign troops and NGOs, which put the country back into a precarious situation.
The U.S. has a responsibility to make good on the failed promises to the Afghans, particularly to those Afghans who were critical to helping Western forces fight the Taliban and other jihadi groups. Resettlement in the U.S. should absolutely be something entertained by the next president, as it would finally close the book on a humanitarian crisis which the U.S. had a large role in worsening, and give Americans a visible reminder of the costs of overseas imperial misadventures.
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Otherwise, Afghanistan risks repeating an era of civil war which it underwent in the 1990s and which led to the Taliban as the country's government. The stakes have rarely been higher.