The situation in Afghanistan has become increasingly dire as the months go by. The rising setbacks, costs, and causatives (both military and civilian) draw broad parallels to the United States’ involvement in Vietnam. The similarities to the rationale given by the government, changing support of the people, method of warfare by the enemy, and problems with foreign governments are striking. Like the Vietnam War, the situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating and withdrawal must be done.
Both military excursions began with wide support in the wake of attacks on U.S. citizens by a foreign enemy. The Gulf of Tonkin incident for Vietnam and 9/11 for Afghanistan gave the U.S. justification to expand military operations in both areas. In both of these events, there were perceived acts of aggression on the United States of America. Both incidents gave the sitting president broad support in whatever he did. Lyndon B. Johnson and George W. Bush pursued similar, narrow-minded foreign policies of war, ignoring its far-reaching consequences. This support was given to both presidents because the U.S. public was caught up in hyper-patriotic sentiment. Any dissident was seen as unpatriotic or even treasonous. This blind support by the people allowed both presidents to blunder into foreign conflicts.
The insurgents of Afghanistan and the Viet Cong both used guerilla tactics. They attack soldiers quickly and then scatter before retaliation can be made. This defies conventional warfare methods and makes fighting the enemy forces exceedingly difficult.
A major reason to pull out is that we are supporting corrupt inefficient governments. In Vietnam, Ngo Dinh Diem and the later governments were widely unpopular and authoritatarian. Hamid Karzai is also a corrupt politician with ties to criminal enterprises. Electoral fraud has been rampant. In 2011, a Karzai-backed special court sought to return 62 candidates, who lost their seats or were ineligible to run, back to their positions. This was an obvious attempt by Karzai to return his minions to power. The Karzai regime is more interested in giving out money to its crony friends than peace in the country. Karzai is well-known for his wild and erratic behavior, constantly switching positions on key issues and acting antagonistic towards the U.S.
Transparency International has ranked Afghanistan as the third most corrupt nation on the planet.
As with the Diem regime, Karzai cannot be trusted and our support of him takes away our moral high ground. We claim to want to bring democracy into the country, but this sham democracy will bring no progress to the country.
Withdrawal will save lives of both Afghans and U.S. soldiers. The insurgents will cease major attacks if foreign forces leave. They will lose their support of the people because their whole purpose is to fight the occupation.
The events of this year have only worked to unite the Afghan people against the occupation. The accidental Quran-burning by United States soldiers and the mass killing of Staff Sergeant Robert Bales solidify the Afghan people’s resolve to fight the occupying army. Trained Afghan police officers are turning on and killing our own soldiers.
We have not won the hearts and minds of the people. Our presence is not helping the Afghan people. Afghanistan’s standard of living is among the lowest in the world. The best decision would be to withdraw military troops and create a new method to monitor the country.
Jack Barnett is a fourth-year student majoring in history and political science. He can be reached at JB723722@wcupa.edu.