What Went Wrong in Afghanistan? A History Review Of The Graveyard Of Empires

The United States has just lost its 20 year long war in Afghanistan and is pulling out its last troops as of August 2021. The US Client Government of Afghanistan has utterly collapsed. The Military of Afghanistan just gave up and deserted. The President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani fled Afghanistan and the Taliban Militia has re-taken power in Afghanistan 20 years after being ousted from power by the US Military Invasion in 2001. How did this happen? To answer that question me must review history and the terrible policy decisions of the United States that contributed to this as well as Afghanistan’s troubled history.

First of all Afghanistan is known as the Graveyard of Empires. Over the centuries Afghanistan has been invaded and occupied by many different Empires who attempted to conquer or control it. All of these countries failed.

Here is a list of some of those empires: The Macedonian Empire under Alexander the Great, The Mongolians, The Huns, India, The British Empire, and the Soviet Union. All of these countries ended up in the same problem. They found themselves fighting a people who refused to be conquered. The Afghan People are very resilient and refuse to be conquered by a foreign army. Afghanistan also is a very mountainous country with lots of caves, which makes it very difficult to navigate for an invader.

The British Empire fought 3 wars in Afghanistan between 1839-1919. That’s 80 years! The British Empire which was the World Superpower at that time, failed to conquer or control Afghanistan. At one point the British lost 9,000 of their men in combat in Afghanistan!

From 1920-1973 Afghanistan enjoyed some stability. Afghanistan was still a monarchy at the time and their last king Mohammed Zahir Shah who ruled from 1933-1973 tried to modernize the country.

In 1973 the king went to Italy to receive eye surgery and his jealous cousin Mohammed Daoud Khan launched a coup and took over the country.

Mohammed Doaud Khan abolished the monarchy in 1973 and make Afghanistan into a Republic. His rule only lasted for 5 years. In 1978 he was overthrown and killed in a violent revolution. The Afghan Communist Party with some help from the Afghan Army invaded his palace in Kabul and killed him and took over the capital.

Communism came to Afghanistan from 1978 until 1992. The New Communist Government created a series of reforms that were very unpopular with the conservative muslim population of the country. Some of the laws the Communist Leaders enacted were banning forced marriage in Afghanistan and land reform.

The war in Afghanistan begun. The communist government of Afghanistan was facing an insurgency and called on Russia to send troops to help neutralize the rebellion. The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December 1979 and began their war there.

Much of the world including the United States condemned Russia’s military action in Afghanistan. Which is extremely ironic today. The US also decided it was going to ensure Russia would lose. The US decided to help the Afghan Rebels by sending them weapons to fight against the Russians. The USA and Pakistan put into action Operation Cyclone. President Ronald Reagan called the Afghan Rebels “Freedom Fighters” and many American films such as Rambo 3 promoted that narrative.

2/2/1983 President Reagan meeting with Afghan Freedom Fighters in the Oval Office to discuss Soviet atrocities in Afghanistan
The Stinger Missile Launcher

The US Efforts to sabotage Russia’s War in Afghanistan contributed to Russia losing. The Afghan Rebels were able to shoot down Russian aircrafts with the stinger missiles. Over 14,000 Russians were killed in Afghanistan. The Russians left defeated in 1989. Americans cheered this. But things did not improve in Afghanistan when the Russians left.

As the Russians left, the Afghan Government collapsed. No government took its place. The Afghan Rebels that the US supported then began killing each other for control of Afghanistan. The capital Kabul was highly unstable and violent during the 1990s with different warlords fighting each other for power. By 1991 The US and most of the International Community did not care about Afghanistan any longer. Afghanistan was in civil war from 1989-2001. The United States even closed its embassy in Afghanistan in 1989 and did not re-open it until 2002 after invading the country.

When Afghanistan needed the world’s help the most in the 1990s, the world turned its back. During this period of anarchy in Afghanistan, the country became a safe haven for international terrorist groups including the Al Qaeda who later carried out the September 11th Attacks.

Infamous terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden was in Afghanistan in the 1980s serving with the Afghan Resistance to the Russian Occupation. During the 1980s many volunteer fighters from Muslim Nations travelled to Afghanistan to fight against the Russians alongside the Afghans. Saudis, Pakistanis, Egyptians, Yemenis, etc. In the 1990s these people now were running terrorist training camps in Afghanistan.

During the Afghan Civil War the Taliban Group became the most dominant group and took over 90% of Afghanistan by 1996. They ruled the majority of the country until 2001. The Taliban were infamous for their brutality, harsh treatment of women, and rejection of the outside world. The Taliban harbored the Al Qaeda in their country during this time and made Afghanistan a rogue state in the global community.

The USA launched cruise missile strikes on Afghanistan for the 1st time in 1998 in an attempt to kill Osama Bin Laden after his group carried out suicide bomb attacks in the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

After the 9/11 attacks George W Bush ordered the Taliban Regime of Afghanistan to hand over Osama Bin Laden and all other Al Qaeda leaders, shut down the terrorist training camps, and cooperate with the United States. The Taliban refused and said Osama Bin Laden was innocent and the US had no proof.

On October 7th 2001 the United States invaded Afghanistan. The original mission was to go after the Al Qaeda network for the 9/11 attacks, to destroy all the terrorist training camps, and topple to Taliban Regime

US Marines in Afghanistan November 2001

The Taliban was toppled by December 2001 and the training camps were destroyed. But Osama Bin Laden and many of his Al Qaeda leadership were able to flee into Pakistan and hide for the next decade. Then the US objective in Afghanistan started getting confusing.

George W. Bush wanted to assure the American People in 2002, that the US would not make the same mistakes as others did in Afghanistan. At the same time he did the opposite. The George W. Bush Administration decided to make Afghanistan a nation building campaign. The US attempted to create a new government in Afghanistan, to rebuild their destroyed country, make a new army for Afghanistan, make Afghanistan into a western style democracy, and destroy the opium production in Afghanistan

Afghanistan produces 80% of the world’s opium/heroin since the 1950s. After over 19 years efforts by the US to destroy it, the opium production is still booming.

The United States made a huge mistake to get mired in all the messes of Afghanistan. Taking on the opium production has been a massive failure and was never America’s job. Afghanistan is a very tribalistic country, and democracy just does not work in a country like that. US Policy Makers failed to understand how Afghan Society works. The US also focused a lot of its attention when it decided to invade and occupy Iraq in 2003. Afghanistan became a secondary priority to the Bush Administration.

There were many times that the Afghan Soldiers that the US were training ended up attacking and killing the US Soldiers. That is usually a sign the war is a lost cause

Another mistake made was relying on Pakistan to help the US in Afghanistan.

Pakistan supported the Taliban from 1994-2001. Even after the US Invasion, much of Pakistan’s Military Leadership and their Intelligence Agency the ISI continued supporting Afghan Insurgents and giving them safe haven in Afghanistan. The Pakistanis were even caught harboring Osama Bin Laden! The Paskistanis played both sides in the War on Terror and kept giving a life line to the Afghan Insurgents fighting US Forces. Pakistan is a state sponsor of terrorism and also supports terrorists who regularly attack India.

The objectives in Afghanistan kept changing. The mission was never clear. The US ended up spending $2 Trillion in Afghanistan and about 2,400 American Soldiers have been killed in combat there. Over 100,000 Afghans have died in Afghanistan since 2001. Millions have died since 1978. US Airstrikes in Afghanistan have killed so many Afghan Non-Combatants, which only fueled more insurgency. The Afghans did not view the Americans as liberators but as occupiers like the Russians and British. The Afghan People never submit to a foreign occupation.

Eventually the US realized it could never defeat the Taliban and the Donald Trump Administration entered into negotiations with the Taliban by late 2018 and signed a peace agreement with them in 2020. Then President Trump began bringing the troops home.

The Afghan Army that the US had spent years training did not put up much of a fight as the US was leaving and ended up deserting and fleeing to neighboring countries like Turkmenistan and Tajikistan.

Now in August 2021 The Afghan Government has collapsed. The US has evacuated and closed its Embassy in Kabul like in 1989. The Taliban has re-conquered Afghanistan, America is pulling out, thousands of Afghans are fleeing the country, and the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has fled the country. Some are recalling the parallels to the Fall of Saigon in 1975 at the end of the Vietnam War. It is also a replay of the Russians defeat in Afghanistan.

The Pentagon lied to the American Public for 20 years about the status of the war. In December 2019 the Washington Post published formerly classified government information and reports dubbing them “The Afghanistan Papers” https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-confidential-documents/ For 18 years US Officials and the Pentagon misled the American Public and tried to paint a rosy picture to everyone that the war was going well, when they knew it wasn’t. So much lies to try keep the American Public Opinion in favor of the war. The Defense Contract Companies of America such as General Dynamics and Raytheon also played a huge role in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They profit of war making the weapons, radars, and fighter jets. Many 4 Star Generals typically join the Board of Directors of Defense Companies after they retire from the Military

Some many terrible policy decisions have been made over the past 40 years in Afghanistan and Afghanistan has not improved. It is disgusting also all the video games made from 2001 to present about the Afghanistan War as if its entertainment. I know of many video games where you play as American Soldiers killing in Afghanistan. Shameful.

Hopefully US Policy Makers will think twice before invading another country any time soon. The American Public has no appetite for it. Most of the veterans I met over the years who served in Afghanistan became the biggest critics of the war. They were against the continuation of it.

As for Afghanistan, there are no answers on how to fix that country. Only God can fix it. Pray for God’s Will to be done there. All the Afghan People need Jesus desperately. Military Intervention and Occupation can never replace that.

6 responses to “What Went Wrong in Afghanistan? A History Review Of The Graveyard Of Empires”

  1. Once again my brother, your research and fine writing has opened the historical view to current events. For all, this ‘big picture is so essential to understanding this crisis.
    For believers, the significance is greater. We must see the futility of trusting in worldly governments, no matter what the media promotes. All this must serve to magnify our longing for the true and eternal Kingdom to come.
    And right on point, more than takeovers and occupation, the Afghani people need the light and truth of the Gospel.
    Your post succinctly overviews the complicated history of these folks and opens up understanding. Thank you Joseph!

    Liked by 1 person

    • On Wednesday Nights I co-lead a small bible study group with some members my church. Afghanistan was brought up last night and I discussed this with them. I told them every secular/military action has been tried with Afghanistan and it does not work. 40 years of bad policies. Only Jesus can change Afghan Society. There is an underground church in Afghanistan

      Liked by 1 person

      • I was doing some Bible study after reading your post and this newly hit my heart,
        “Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6And the devil said to Him, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. 7Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours”
        Althoigh God is sovereign over him, Satan has authority over the world’s kingdoms and can bestow it upon whomever he chooses. Whether the governments seem evil or good, they are all within the devil’s domain. This is another reason why we must stop idolizing one government over another. Only God’s coming Kingdom matters, that’s what need be extolled.
        Brother, you are such a blessing to the brethren. Let’s pray for that underground church, may the Lord undergird them and reveal Himself greatly!

        Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for reading the post. There is a lot to learn from it. The Pentagon sadly did not learn from history. So many bad decisions made. I hope our policy makers learn this time from this and I hope the US will not plan any invasions of other countries anytime soon. The Afghan People have been the victims of these proxy wars and their country has not really even belonged to them for 40 years. The underground church in Afghanistan is who we should pray for

      Like

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