I hold a PhD in Arab/Middle Eastern Studies and have been a US Marine for 12 years. Been to Afghanistan twice over the last three years and did three tours in Iraq. I would like to think my "opinion" holds a little more water than most.
When we first entered the War in Afghanistan we went there to dislodge al-Qaeda and defeat their Taliban sponsors. A job that was, essentially, completed years ago. Now we are engaged in the process of "nation building", whatever that is supposed to mean.
I think it's ironic that the current White House occupant called Afghanistan the "good war" and maligned the past president and his party for pursuing action in Iraq. President Bush set out to topple Saddam Hussein and restore order in a ruthless dictatorship that had destroyed any political infrastructure, other than the Baathist, and suppressed any political opposition. Today there is a wide representation of political viewpoint in Iraq, a reasonably capable system of governance, and although some, with Iranian backing, are trying to disrupt the
this fragile political dynamic, it's working. Bush also negotiated a withdraw date of US forces that took place exactly as promised, even though the current President takes credit for it.
I say ironic, because Iraq has pretty much been a success story, while Afghanistan is shaping up to be a miserable failure. Afghanistan has been and will be be for the foreseeable future, stuck in a 14th century model of governance, with warlords and corrupt thugs running a country, influenced greatly by old religious zealots that are stuck in a world model reminiscent of the medieval Dark Ages. This is why al-Qaeda sank roots in Afghanistan. With payoffs to the right warlords, Bin Laden bought his little place in paradise and planned 9-11.
The geopolitical conditions of this part of the world have allowed Afghanistan to stay isolated and pursue their "road to the past" for centuries, while the rest of the world has grown, evolved, and transformed itself into a much more enlightened place, Afghanistan has been stuck in the Middle Ages. Their treatment of woman, their archaic ideas of justice and a "warlord" system of governance, has maintained this model for way too long....and I have little faith that any degree of "nation building" will change anything is this wasted , isolated, peace of real estate. The problem with Afghanistan is that since the time of Genghis Khan is has been a place people went through on their way to somewhere else. There was no reason to stay...it offers no great economic basis. Afghanistan has always been just a "rest stop" on the way to greener pastures. The only product this hell-hole has offered the world is a steady supply of opium that has fed the worlds heroin addicts.
We cannot bomb Afghanistan back into the Stone Age...they are already there....and worse, they seem to like it that way. Trying to create a cohesive society out of a bunch of war-lords, guarding their personal fiefdoms, and constantly fighting one-another for the upper-hand is a waste of time.
It's time to pack up and leave this place to it's own miserable fate. As long as these people continue to cling to their "goat herder" prophet's every word and renounce anything good from the western world they deserve to be left alone and create their perfect 13th century Islam. However, the next time a group of radical jihadists try to set up shop in this god-forsaken place...we should nip it in the bud early, and just nuke the damn place....it might improve the terrain, which already looks like the far side of hell.