The ‘Graveyard of Empires’ is what some use to refer to Afghanistan and history backs Afghanistan in this regard . Alexander the Great took a hold of Persia in 6 months but spent three years trying to do the same to Afghanistan with his life barely intact as he was wounded by an Afghan archer’s arrow in the process. The losses and multiple defeats by Afghan tribesmen ultimately led to the fall of his empire. The same happened to Genghis Khan who suffered heavy losses and had to come to a painful solution with the Afghan tribesmen. The British had three Anglo-Afghan wars spanning from the 19th century to the 20th century with the end result being heavy British losses and the end of military rule in Afghanistan. Finally, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979 in order to prop up the Communist regime, however, resistance from Afghan tribesmen with the help of the ‘mujahideen’ led to the defeat of the Soviet Union and the war catalysed the Soviet Unions break down. The US conflict in Afghanistan, which started in 2001, has all the hallmarks of another defeat of a Superpower by Afghan tribesmen.
After 9/11 the US initiated the ‘war on terror’ of which one of them was Afghanistan, a country accused of hiding Bin Laden and being the headquarters of Al-Qaeda that helped incur a devastating attack on the US. After the initial goal of removing the Taliban regime in Afghanistan by US & UK forces the international community went to Iraq on the assumption that Afghanistan can maintain itself. Fast forward 15 years the US and UK are still in Afghanistan, with the latter in a support role, which shows how ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’ was a total mess and failure.
As of 2016 the UK have had 454 military deaths while the US have lost 2,386 with a further 20,049 wounded, a heavy price paid by both countries. Had Afghanistan been stabilised then the deaths of these servicemen/women would have been to no avail , but unfortunately, Afghanistan is the same as it was pre 9/11 with the Taliban now controlling much of the south and east of Afghanistan. Which brings us to this question: were the deaths and financial price incurred by both countries really worth it? I know what the answer of the families that have lost their loved ones in Afghanistan would be, no.
Afghanistan’s economy is still backwards and much of the economy is still the same as it was in 2001 which begs the question; where does all the aid go? The UK gives Afghanistan £180 million every year, yet unemployment is rife in Afghanistan and corruption is occurring in the highest levels of government. With this in mind the UK still gives aid to Afghanistan which shows how there is something else going on behind the scenes. The US have pumped £110 billion since 2001 to be used for reconstruction and business setups, but yet again there has been no improvements due to the incompetence of the Afghan government and the high levels of corruption.
The devastation that the Afghan civilian have faced is incomparable with as many as 26,000 thousand civilians dying during this war and a further 30,000 being wounded. Ask any Afghan in Afghanistan and they will argue that they would rather have the stability that the Taliban provided than have the US bombing whatever they want without scrutiny. Yes, the Taliban were abusive and did not respect human rights, especially with women, but at least they provided stability, something every Afghan wants at this stage.
Students across the UK believe that ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’ was a total failure by the US and UK and the heavy price paid by families and loved ones was not worth it in the end. Whilst we cannot go back in time and change the course of history we can start now. Students agree that the war in Afghanistan needs to stop as it is not worth it and it further puts the UK in debt. While the integrity of the UK and US was noble their actions were not and with the corruption that is happening in Afghanistan nothing will get done. It is better to leave Afghanistan alone, as was learned by the likes of Genghis Khan and Alexander the Great, as the more time we spend in Afghanistan the worse the condition will get.