Watching Them Leave

In modern warfare, it is important to have an exit strategy. One of President Obama’s campaign promises was to bring the troops home from Afghanistan and Iraq. Now, two years out, a deadline has been set for next summer to draw down troops from the Afghan mission. Unlike the Iraqi invasion, the Afghan war had wider support and better justification, as shown by the allies that chose to be involved militarily in Afghanistan. But now, even the Canadians have set an exit date of the end of 2011.

What does withdrawal mean in Afghanistan? A quick victory has stretched out into a war for the better part of the decade. The situation hasn’t really improved for most average Afghanis, being caught in the crossfire between the allied forces and the Taliban/Al-Qaeda. The groups that were supposed to be quelled are alive and well in the mountains. Poppy cultivation and the ensuing harvest of opium still remain the main cash-crop. Refugees flood the Pakistani borders, further endangering a state that can do without external destabilizers.

The chicken-or-egg problem continues in Afghanistan. Without securing the country, rebuilding is futile. And without reconstruction, the cycle of poverty, violence and extremist ideology continues. But shouldn’t the onus of this security and reconstruction be upon the people who live in Afghanistan? Tumultuous Afghan history shows us that the Afghani people have never really taken kindly to be dictated to. By giving the people the resources to defend themselves, hand in hand with the tools for rebuilding their torn country (albeit in a transitionary manner), there will be more ownership of the nation. Maybe the US exit strategy should more fully develop how Afghans are going to be placed in roles of responsibility, with resource and technical support, as foreign troops return home.

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