10 More Years: How Afghanistan Became the Longest War in U.S. History

Sunday, the U.S. and Afghanistan reached an agreement extending U.S. involvement militarily and financially for at least a decade beyond 2014, the planned departure date of NATO troops. The U.S. has already been involved in Afghanistan for over a decade, with increasing public opposition.

The U.S. and Afghanistan have been on rocky terms in light of recent events involving U.S. soldiers’ involvement in the burning of Korans and the murder of Afghan civilians. Afghan officials refused to continue the negotiations until the U.S. halted night raids. The strategic partnership agreement comes at a crucial time for security in Afghanistan. Conditions have worsened in recent weeks with a resurgence of activity by the Taliban in a multi-pronged attack with raids in the capital’s diplomatic quarter and on parliament.

The document has not outlined specifics in terms of numbers and the precise nature of the U.S. commitment, but, it provides reassurance that some hope for security will endure to suppress the Taliban in Afghanistan and that the U.S. won’t abandon the Afghan people.

“The document finalized today provides a strong foundation for the security of Afghanistan, the region and the world and is a document for the development of the regions,” said Afghan National Security Adviser Rangin Daftar Spanta. The original timeline of withdrawal from Afghanistan is set for 2014, less than a year and a half away.

The American public has grown increasingly opposed to the United States’ continued involvement. Sixty-nine percent of Americans think the war has not been worth fighting. Fifty-three percent support an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. But, what good would immediate withdrawal or even withdrawal in a year and a half do?

A former Army officer, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) argues, “premature withdrawal from Afghanistan could mean that parts of it are eventually reconstituted as terrorist safe havens.” 

It would seem the Taliban are gearing up in preparation for the withdrawal of NATO troops in upcoming 2014. With a timetable set in place for withdrawal, the Taliban has been less incentivized to cooperate with peace negotiations.

The absence of NATO security troops would only amplify the intensity and frequency of attacks by terrorists. A senior Afghan official expressed, “If the Americans withdraw form combat, it will certainly have an effect on our readiness and on equipping the police force.”

Western money is essential to the continual operation of Afghan security troops. If the financial support is halted, “there will not be enough troops to secure the country, especially the rural areas.”

It is clear that increased military presence in Afghanistan has not done anything to curb terrorist activity in the country. In fact, in recent years it has actually increased. Yet, this is not basis to immediately withdraw, if the U.S. and the rest of NATO completely withdrew by 2014 it truly would not have been worth fighting in Afghanistan.

It is needless to debate whether entering Afghanistan was the wrong or right thing for the U.S. to do. The fact of the matter is we are there and we can’t change the past or rectify any mistakes that may have made in our involvement. We can only focus on what is best of both the Afghan and American peoples.

Withdrawal by 2014 would be detrimental to Afghan society as a whole. There would be a resurgence of AOG activity, with Afghan forces left with the inability to enforce compliance and attempt to establish peace. It would lack both the financial backing and training to maintain control. 

The agreement between the U.S. and Afghanistan will ensure that the country isn’t abandoned due to a prearranged timetable that does not reflect operations on the ground. The countries will have to assess the agreement through their own internal review processes. 

“For the United States, that will mean interagency review, consultation with Congress as appropriate and final review by the president,” said U.S. embassy spokesperson Gavin Sundwall. Without the eminent absence of NATO forces in the country, the Taliban may be more willing to comply with peace negotiations.

The U.S. has taken a step in the right direction to maintain a continued relationship with Afghanistan and assist with security in the region after the planned withdrawal date in 2014. There will undoubtedly be public backlash from those who are strong advocates for the timetable, but at the rate the war in Afghanistan has been going, it would only hurt America in the long run through future relationships in the region and strengthen a group that has threatened the U.S. with reprisals.

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Jennifer Moore

Jennifer Moore is a Master's student studying International Relations at the City College of New York. She received her BA in Political Science from Fordham University.

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