Fourteen years into waging a frustrating counter-insurgency campaign in Afghanistan, there is at least one thing that every military expert who has studied the country can agree on: Osama bin Laden really knew what he was doing when he picked Afghanistan as a sanctuary for his murderous band of jihadists. There are few places in the world less hospitable to Western goals and values. Geographically isolated, economically backward, politically divided and culturally insular, Afghanistan has been a hard place to stabilize, and its neighbors haven’t been much help.
But despite numerous setbacks, the Bush and Obama administrations have stuck with the task of fashioning an inclusive democracy in Afghanistan that would no longer afford terrorists a safe haven. And in spite of a drumbeat of negative media coverage — including recent reports that high casualty rates among Afghan security forces are unsustainable — that steadfastness seems to be paying off. There are numerous signs that the U.S. and its 40-odd coalition partners have succeeded in making Afghanistan a more peaceful, progressive place. Here are five of them.
I’m not nearly as optimistic as Mr. Thompson, but I’d love to be wrong.
His second point, regarding the replacement of Karzai with Ghani, is perhaps the least widely know, but most important aspect of any success on Afghanistan.
Indeed, for over a decade, Karzai has been a personal frustration of mine, with regards to US policy. When the US goes into a nation and topples the regime, any subsequent leader, no matter what democratic efforts are expended to give the impression of legitimacy, is going to be seen as a puppet of the US. That being the case, we should have at least insisted our puppet damn well act like our puppet. When it became clear that Karzai was going to pit some parts of the Afghan people against US interests for his own purposes, we should have simply replaced him on our own terms.
That the US has stumbled into an effective leader in Ghani is serendipitous, and not a result of any sane foreign policy on our part.