A question that many Americans struggle to answer is, “why did the U.S. invade Afghanistan?”
Perhaps it should be said that Americans don’t struggle to find an answer to that question, rather we struggle to agree on one.
Nevertheless, most Americans would probably answer that question in the following way: the U.S. invaded Afghanistan on October 7, 2001, as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, to catch and/or kill the terrorists responsible for the attacks on 9/11. Those terrorists included, the mastermind behind the attacks, Osama bin Laden and the members of his jihadist organization al Qaeda.
However, there are many Americans who believe we invaded Afghanistan to solely strengthen the U.S. military industrial complex, or as part of a U.S. government/Jewish plot aimed at annihilating the Arab world, or to expand America’s covert imperialistic agenda, or to access Afghanistan’s poppy reserves, or it had something to do with the New World Order’s dominion over all industrialized nations via the Rothschilds & the Rockefellers international trust fund, etc., etc.
Many formulate these conclusions because they believe 9/11 was, to varying extents, an inside job.
A poll conducted by the New York Times/CBS in 2006 asked the following question:
Do you think members of the Bush Administration are telling the truth, are mostly telling the truth but hiding something, or are they mostly lying?
Telling the truth 16%
Hiding something 53%
Mostly lying 28%
Not sure 3%”
So, the question then becomes, if Americans don’t agree on who was really behind 9/11 or our reasons for invading Afghanistan, what are the chances the Afghan people understand our mission in their country?
A recent Wall Street Journal article investigated this question and found that:
According to a survey of 15- to 30-year-old men in the two southern provinces where President Barack Obama sent the bulk of American surge troops, 92% of respondents said they didn’t know about “this event which the foreigners call 9/11” after being read a three-paragraph description of the attacks.
“Nobody explained to them the 9/11 story—and it’s hard to win the hearts and minds of the fighting-age males in Helmand if they don’t even know why the foreigners are here,” Norine MacDonald, president of the International Council on Security and Development, the think tank that carried out the survey of 1,000 Afghan men in eight districts of Kandahar and Helmand, told the Wall Street Journal.
“There is a vacuum—and it’s being filled by al Qaeda and Taliban propaganda claiming that we are here to destroy Islam,” MacDonald added.
Obviously this is a problem. If it is true that, as von Clausewitz said, “War is a mere continuation of politics by other means,” (“Der Krieg ist eine bloße Fortsetzung der Politik mit anderen Mitteln”) than an effective war strategy is as much about communicating a clear social/political “narrative” to innocent civilians as it is about dropping bombs via targeted air strikes.
However, the time for disseminating a narrative to explain our rationale for the invasion and occupation has undoubtedly passed. Obama has ordered the withdraw of 10,000 troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year and another 23,000 by the summer of 2012. With respect to the initial withdraw Obama has called it, “the beginning, but not the end, of our effort to wind down this war.”
By all accounts the war is ending. And while many of us, here in the U.S., have answers to explain (and/or justify) the two-front war on terror, those in Afghanistan may be left wondering.
When asked about 9/11 and the U.S. invasion, Abdul Ghattar a 16-year-old from the war-torn Helmand province, told the men from the International Council on Security and Development:
“Never heard of it [9/11], I have no idea why the Americans are in my country.”
The truth is he and his fellow countrymen may never have sufficient answers to those questions. Hopefully our failure to explain ourselves doesn’t come back to haunt us.