Afghanistan has a right to self-determination

A column from Jack Harris ’22 about the past, present and future of Afghanistan.


Maddy Smith

The American flag hangs in a West High classroom on Sept. 7.

After 20 years of war, 2.3 trillion dollars, 50,000 dead civilians and 200,000 dead in total, it’s time to leave Afghanistan alone. Let me revise that. After 43 years of conflict, 6 major regime changes, and 2 million deaths, it is time to leave Afghanistan, and for that matter, the rest of the world, alone.

It’s difficult to pin down precisely when the last “good times” were in Afghanistan, but there is a definitive final moment when Afghanistan was autonomous, free to govern as they chose. The 1978 Saur revolution led to the overthrowing of the autocratic monarch/military rule, and the implementation of a socialist government. 

Despite initial popularity, the new government angered a large number of the citizenry. A series of atheistic reforms turned the religious supermajority against the new regime, then, the instability became chaos after a land redistribution and credit suspension plan failed. The new government, labeling themselves communist, reached out to the USSR for help in restoring order. The new soviet conscripts expected to be in and out of the region within two months. 13 years later, they finally pulled out. 

As it turns out, a militia group called the Mujahideen had been able to capitalize on the outrage the average Afghani felt towards the Soviet invasion, and recruit thousands of men and boys to fight for them. Unsurprisingly, the U.S. was supporting the Mujahideen for the entire war effort, giving them 20 billion in weapons, and in documents that would eventually leak out of the dark crevices of the CIA’s headquarters, it was revealed that America had been stoking the flames of war in Afghanistan long before the Soviets ever invaded and that the goal of the Americans was to trap the USSR in “their own Vietnam”. Oh, and there’s one more thing worth mentioning. Amid the war, the Afghan Mujahideen splintered, with several members forming their own personal factions. Among these groups are Al-Qaeda and the Taliban

In most meaningful senses, the US and Soviet wars in Afghanistan, are one and the same, or possibly reflections of each other. With things going so poorly for the Soviets in Afghanistan, and US involvement making the situation worse the first time around, how did anyone expect this to go differently? Anyone being honest with themselves didn’t.

The goal of the Americans was to trap the USSR in “their own Vietnam””

Not satisfied with merely perpetuating a proxy war, the US invaded in 2001. According to quotes from US secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, the US wanted to invade Iraq. Despite this, the US would not leave for another 21 years. However, it’s worth taking a moment to peer more inquisitively at those comments by Rumsfeld. The exact quote is “there aren’t any good targets in Afghanistan and there are lots of good targets in Iraq.” Eventually, he would get his wish, with the US invading Iraq in 2004. By the end of the war, 600,000 Iraqi civilians had been killed in order to make Rumsfeld’s dream a reality. 

The Iraq war ended up being so disastrous, that since its failure, the US has not formally deployed more than 4,000 soldiers at a time in any new country. And yet, America’s role as the self-declared police of the world hasn’t diminished in the slightest. Instead, American civilians have had the concept of “Airstrikes” normalized, and compartmentalized drone strikes from real warfare. 

Drone warfare is the next logical step in American imperialism. Originally festering to life through the Spanish-American war in 1899, American imperialism has employed tactics such as military interventionproxy warsthe CIAcolonialismrigged electionspuppet governmentsgenocide and now, drone strikes. The U.S. Afghan war was just another symptom of this, with the U.S. attempting to wage war on the concept of “terrorism”. The first goal in fighting “terrorism” is to create a forever war, one that never ends, so that the military-industrial complex can continually sell more and more weapons. The second goal is to allow the U.S. to justify the occupation of any country in the name of fighting terrorism because in occupying a country, the U.S. has the chance to install a government friendly to them and steal as much wealth as possible. Here’s a fantastically unsurprising fact: Afghanistan has some of the richest natural resources in the world.

America’s role as the self-declared police of the world hasn’t diminished in the slightest”

When America attacks foreign countries, they steal the nation’s wealth, and the lives of its citizens; all they leave behind is instability. The U.S. has bombed Afghanistan back in time, destroying modern infrastructure, and accidentally creating massive support for the regressive Taliban government. Every future generation of Afghanis will have to pay the price for American bullishness, but they are not alone. Since 1946 the U.S. has interfered in 81 foreign elections and interfered militarily 70 times. Each time another country is invaded that is millions of more lives disrupted, future generations impacted and the human rights of an entire population completely ignored. America has arrogantly ignored other countries’ right to self-determination, and for once, they paid the price. The future may not look bright for Afghanistan at this moment, but at least they finally have a future; one that they can control as a sovereign nation.