The launching of Operation Enduring Freedom by the United States military on October 7th, 2001, marked the beginning of the US-led war on terror in Afghanistan. The response came as a response to the devastating terror attack on September 11th, 2001, which the terrorist group al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for.
The group and its leader, Osama bin Laden, were at the time being hosted in Afghanistan by a sympathetic government formed by the Taliban, an ultra-religious group in the region.
The United States took a stand that the operation would not seek to differentiate between the terrorist group and the regime that was harboring it (Freedman, 2003); thus the objectives of the war were; the capture of Osama bin Laden, the complete destruction of the al-Qaeda group and the ousting of the sympathetic Taliban government (Cooley 2002).
The US was backed by some of its allies, notably the United Kingdom and Australia (Wanadi 2003). The conflict has to date not reached a conclusive point with the insurgencies waxing and waning over time.
Additionally, the ousted Taliban militant mostly escaped over the porous border shared between Afghanistan and Pakistan; consequently, some of the combat action tended to spill into the Pakistani territory as the Taliban used bases located in these regions to launch guerilla attacks against the allied forces.
The United States is estimated to have deployed some 28,300 troops in operation. The allies have deployed lesser numbers to bolster the US invasion.
Out of the three objectives of the war, only one has been relatively achieved; the disruption of the al-Qaeda activities in Afghanistan. To date, Osama bin Laden has never been captured and continues to issue threats to the American military and civilians from a hidden location. Additionally, over the border in Pakistan, the Taliban has regrouped and is launching insurgencies into Afghanistan.
The fact that the US has been accused of conducting military operations inside the territory of neighboring Pakistan has not helped the issue; the relationship between this American ally in this region with the US has been strained by the American counteraccusation that the Pakistani government is not applying itself enough to expel al-Qaeda and Taliban operatives from their territory (Freedman 2003).
The invasion of Afghanistan by the US and its allies is part of the broader war on terror.
Reasons Given Against the War
The invasion was declared a war by president bush. However, opponents questioned how a war could be fought against a group that is not even part of the government; and that does not have the support of the civilian population. Additionally, this network of terrorists did not have official military bases that could be targeted. On the contrary, they hid among the Afghan population.
Therefore by using air raids against purported military targets in the country could not guarantee the safety of the civilians; many innocent people would be killed in an attempt to kill just a small proportion in the population (Walzer 2004). Thus, the allied forces could not just go ahead with such raids and claim collateral damage.
Stability in the Middle East
The United States was already unpopular in the Middle East and in the Islamic world for the perceived attacks against the religion (Hertsgaard 2003). The role in the continuing embargo on the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein and their support for the Zionist state of Israel was seen as a direct attack on the Arab and Persian nations.
The Pakistani president’s support for the war was already causing widespread street riots in Islamabad, and many Islamic extremists were already creating a new rallying call for jihad against the united state.
Therefore, a war in Afghanistan was not going to help in stabilizing the region; in fact, it may lead to the rise of more elements that the war was trying to eliminate. Additionally, the angered citizens of Islamic countries would be alienated from any of their governments that supported the war, causing further instability in the region (Mamdani 2002).
The American soldiers
Claims were made that the military chose to recruit their combatants from the underprivileged regions of the United States, targeting working-class white, African Americans, and other ethnic minorities in the country. While the patriotism of the group is not under question, the intentions of the government may not be sincere.
The stepping up of recruitment in the run-up to the war showed the gaping difference between the number of combatants from the privileged and the underprivileged in the country. Therefore, a war in Afghanistan would fan racism and discrimination in the United States. The exploitation of the patriotism of these people would, in the long run, harm the unity of American society.
The American economy
Even before the terrorist attacks on 9/11 by the al-Qaeda terrorists, the US economy was already in trouble; an economic recession had crept in and was affecting many sectors of the economy.
When the attacks hit the country, some of the industries, for example, the airline companies were badly hit by the fallout of the attack; whereas some of them went under, the government had to spend billions of dollars to bail out the others.
With the attacks also came the spending on defense (Waugh et al., 2002). Additional spending on the war in Afghanistan was not going to improve the economy; on the contrary, this spending would only go to put more strain on an already fragile economic status.
Arguments of Going to War in Afghanistan
The September 11th attacks
The magnitude and the audacity of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington had shocked the United States in acknowledging the immense threat of terror.
The war, therefore, in Afghanistan that was seeking to destroy the al-Qaeda operatives and to oust the Taliban government that harbored it was aimed at reducing the threat of terrorism in the United States and in the world (Wanadi 2002).
Since the Taliban government had refused to arrest the members of the terrorist group and their leader, Osama, then their existence was a direct threat to the security of the United States; and this warranted their removal from power.
The capture of Osama bin Laden
The leader of the al-Qaeda terrorist group had claimed responsibility for several attacks of US interest outside the united state, this includes the bombing of the US embassies in Nairobi, Kenya; and Dar-es-salaam, Tanzania, both on the east coast of Africa in 1998 that left scores of American and the local populations dead and injured.
The operative also claimed responsibility for the terrorist attack on US Cole, one in 2000. Even before the 9/11 attacks, Osama usually released audio and videotapes urging the world Muslims to wage jihad (holy war) against the united state and her allies. However, the 9/11 attack was what jolted the American government to take concrete actions in regards to the capture or the killing of the leader of al-Qaeda.
To date, this objective of the war has not been attained.
The building of nations and rehabilitation of failed states
The United States recognized the threat posed by the failed state in the world; they usually served as breeding grounds for terrorist operatives aiming to ‘revenge’ the situation they blamed on the United States.
By installing a strong and legitimate government in Afghanistan, the US would have acquired an invaluable ally which, with monetary and military support, would crack down on terrorist threats in the country through policing and intelligence rather than through an all-out war; this would significantly reduce the threat of terrorism in the world (Walzer 2004).
The liberation of Afghan women
The Taliban government had a history of horrific subjugation of women countrywide. Women were not allowed to school, to drive, and to go anywhere without the accompaniment of a male relative.
Additionally, they were required to wear garbs (known as the ‘burqa’); that covered every part of their bodies, including their faces (Rosenberg, 2002). Failure to comply with these regulations led to severe beating at the hands of the Taliban police that sometimes led even to death.
The first lady of the United States at the time, Laura Bush, went on national radio to shore up support for the war for the liberation of the women of Afghanistan from the tyranny of the Taliban government (Rosenberg 2002).
The spread of democracy and the defense of Human rights
The country of Afghanistan had never experienced true democracy. Conflict after conflict has plagued the country. Since the exit of the Soviet Union from the country in 1989, the political vacuum left led to constant conflict.
The eventual victor in the conflicts, the Taliban, in 1995 captured Kabul and set up the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. During their seven-year rule, there were severe human rights abuses all over the country, with the enforcement of archaic forms of punishment for crimes including amputations of limbs and whipping.
The punishments were carried out in public and included stoning to death, rape, amputations of limbs for theft, and other practices of the sought (Weaver 2002).
Additionally, the Taliban religious police enforced a long list of forbidden things under their rule, including the hanging of pictures in the home, television, trimming of the beard, nail polish, and other seemingly harmless things; for fear that they might pose a threat to the Islamic faith of the Afghans.
The citizens had no democratic rights since no elections were being held. As a result of the conflicts, the afghan infrastructure was in ruins, and the Taliban were not making any attempts to rebuild it.
The United States and her allies sought the deposition of this oppressive regime; and the restoration of universal human rights in Afghanistan; and the democratization of the systems of governance where everyone has a right to choose his or her own leader.
Over time, some of the goals of the invasion of Afghanistan by the United States and her allies have been achieved, while others remain elusive. Osama bin Laden still remains at large, most likely in the tribal regions of Pakistan, and the Taliban has experienced a resurgence.
The current American president, Barrak Obama, seeks to reverse some of these loses in his new policy on the US involvement in Afghanistan and in the Middle East as a whole. Only time will tell if these efforts will be successful or not.
References and Bibliographies
Aretxaga, Begoña 2001, Terror as Thrill: First Thoughts on the ‘War on Terrorism. Anthropological Quarterly, Vol. 75, No. 1 (winter, 2001), pp. 139-150
Associated Foreign Press 2001, World Ignoring Possible War Crimes in Afghanistan:.HRW.’
Cooley, John K. 2002, Unholy wars: Afghanistan, America and international terrorism: Edition: 3, illustrated. New York: Pluto Press
Freedman, Lawrence 2003, War Foreign Policy, No. 137., pp. 16-18+20+22+24. London: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Hertsgaard, Mark 2003, The eagle’s shadow: why America fascinates and infuriates the world. Edition: reprint, revised. New York: Picador
Mamdani, Mahmood 2002, Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: A Political Perspective on Culture and Terrorism: American Anthropologist. Vol: 104 No: 3 Pg: 766-775, 2002. Department of Anthropology and International Affairs. New York: Columbia University
Rosenberg, Emily S. 2002, Rescuing Women and Children: The Journal of American History, Vol. 89, No. 2, History and September 11: A Special Issue (Sep., 2002), pp. 456-465.New York: Organization of American Historians
Walzer, Michael ,2004, Arguing about war. New York: Yale University Press
Wanadi, Yusuf 2002, A global coalition against international terrorism. International security. Spring 2002, Vol. 26, No. 4, Pages 184-189
Waugh, William L. Jr. and Richard T. Sylves. 2002, Organizing the War on Terrorism: Public Administration Review, Vol. 62, Special Issue: Democratic Governance in the Aftermath of September 11, 2001 (Sep., 2002), pp. 145-153 Published by: Blackwell Publishing on behalf of the American Society for Public Administration
Weaver, John & Franklin Graham 2002, Inside Afghanistan: The American Who Stayed Behind After 9/11 and His Mission of Mercy to a War-Torn People. London: Cambridge University Press