What would success in Afghanistan look like?

Recent polling finds U.S. public support for the war in Afghanistan at a historic low. And as Afghans prepared to vote in today’s presidential election, U.S. casualties were mounting at a record rate. After nearly eight years of war, what would success in Afghanistan look like?

The question implies that military commanders have a clear mission assignment. An example is FDR’s charge to Eisenhower “… to enter the continent of Europe and defeat all Axis forces.” The commanders in Afghanistan have no such charge. Therefore there can be no answer to the question. Some pundits surmise that the objective of our presence in Afghanistan is to provide the means to enable the formation of a stable US ally in the region capable of providing for its own security. This is not a military objective but a political goal beyond the grasp of our military forces. -Irving Lerch, Washington D.C.

I spent a year in Afghanistan, mobilized with the National Guard to train Afghans to defend their country against the murderous Taliban. While I did see some combat, most of my missions were humanitarian in nature, passing out food, clothing, toys and school supplies to some of our planet’s most desperately poor inhabitants. Success would mean some different values than most Afghans hold today, and a new understanding of words that aren’t part of their current vocabulary, like due process and legal rights. -Jeffrey Courter, Flossmoor, IL

Success would, in my opinion, be where we see AFGHAN People fighting these terror-fundamentalists for themselves…This tyrannized Nation need to fight for themselves, and with the help of ourselves, and the many others there at this time, we could not help but be successful in this War. Without this, we cannot win. -Dan Wargo, Arcata CA

For me success in Afghanistan would be seeing enough political stability to encourage investment and economic development there. The Afghans might never have democracy as we Americans know it, but they should at least have the right to choose their leadership. Condaleeza Rice once said the U. S. had seen stability in the Middle East before, and that was not enough: the spread of democracy was more important in her eyes, but then the Bush administration got quite upset with the election of Hamas as the Palestinians’ leadership. If something like this happens in Afghanistan, we should be prepared to live with it. -Martha Steger, Midlothian, VA

Success in Afghanistan would mean people there would be free of the Medusa-like power of the Taliban. Success in Afghanistan would be the withdrawal of all foreign troops, and no more sad video feeds of young people from the US and our allies dying in sniper fire, or by bombs planted in the road to blow up any vehicle or being that travels along it. Success would be the realization that all of the Earth’s people, would have the right to an education, to live a life free of tyranny from those that use murder and bloodshed to foment destruction upon those that do not follow their particular brand of living, Freedom. -Ann Flynt, Jackson, TN

Woman have their full rights, the Taliban are no longer a dominating force in the country and we are out of there. -John Catenacci, Onsted, MI

Let us back up to the late seventies before the US launched what would become the Taliban and Al Queda. After 40 years Afghan women no longer are sold, traded, or have their faces covered. Honor killings still happen, but are punished severely. The infant and maternal mortality rate is in the mid-range for impoverished countries, as opposed to being #1. Half of Afghanistan is UXO free, as opposed to 10%. Paved roads connect 70% of the population. Wells provide clean water. Sewage treatment is country wide. The rate of illiteracy is 10%. 80% of girls and 95% of boys are in school. The government is no more corrupt than the US. -Thomas Baxter, Tallahassee, FL

The Afghans would create their own form of governance (rather than a US democracy) and begin the process of creating basic infrastructure such as micro markets and trade, schools, masques, market areas, basic industry, police, and a viable military that could provide basic defense for the country. The Taliban would be neutralized though not necessarily eliminated completely. -Robert Rue, Peterborough, NH

For the US, a situation where the Taliban is not terrorizing Afghan citizens. They are very difficult to eliminate, so they need to be controlled. For the people, specifically women and children, the right to a real education and choice in marriage and dress. Also ability to divorce and obtain birth control. The key is real education, not soviet style education that teaches that the Soviets were the first to land on the moon for example. Education that teaches the basics of biology and other sciences. Access to the internet. -Susan Beane, Castle Rock, CO

If memory serves me, one of the consequences of the Russian invasion of Afghanistan was the deliberate destruction of fruit trees. When food producing trees are routinely replanted and are able survive to maturity success has been achieved. -Judith Cichowicz, Las Vegas, NV

The term “eight years of war” immediately speaks to frustation with a war. If a war is worth being waged, the length of time the war will take is not the issue. The issue is the objective! Is it worthy of the time, material, and most of all the lives that will be spent. For me the Afghanistan War Objective should be, if it is not, to provide stability for the Government and its population to develop infastructure and institutions for a strong society to develop. Good, Positive, noble objectives take time and effort. Early withdrawal will just force us back to a less tenable situation that now exist. -James Essam, Beaverton, OR

We would have cleaned up the Terrorist threat and established peace with the Political group that we are determined to call “Terrorist”. The poppy crop would have a market and additional item would have been added to it. If adding a pipeline would have helped their economic growth we would have responsibly helped to establish it. The Military Objective that has been started is a complete failure. We have used up our NATO currency like a bunch of nuts. When opportunity was opened, we followed the leadership of a complete idiot! Many American Generals were fired by the IDOT and the press let the action stay beyond the public’ ears. -James Becker, Zebulon, NC

We should follow the time honored tradition of issuaing a proclamation that we have won the war and then leave immediately! This is basically how we got out of Viet Nam, another total quagmire, and it is the only way we will ever get out of Afghanistan. -Henry Bennett, Portland, OR

Turkey; no mullahs, no taliban, no theocracy, no beatings in the street, no acid thrown in girls faces and, last but not least, no warlords. Is that going to happen? No in our lifetimes… -Thomas Ronayne, Detroit, MI

Strictly speaking, the only reason we fougt the Taliban was because they could have given us Osama and they refused to. Our singular objective was and should remain Osama bin Laden. If he’s now in Pakistan, then we no longer have a reason to be in Afghanistan. But, if we want to partake in a nation-building exercise, then there are lots of things we might seek to do. No more Taliban, or at least a Taliban that is a pathetic minority that most Afghans hate but no longer fear. A democracy with voter turn-out at least as high (low?) as ours. No more gender discrimination. A non-religious school system. That’s a start. -Paul Caldwell, Durham, NC

30 years, not 8. Can you imagine living through a 30 year war ? YES, to those who believe that ‘success’ must be defined from an Afghan perspective rather than a US military perspective. Social, economic and political development will be difficult; Afghanistan lost two generations of educated people. Rory Stewart (The Places in Between) offers an alternative to current policy: foreign troop reductions to 20,000 sufficient, he believes, to prevent Al Qaeda from operating in Afghanistan and a concomitant increase in development projects uncoupled from controlled efforts at ‘state building’. Worth considering ? -Jo Shepherd, St. Paul, MN

Success would be when elections would not be handled by the CIA and the U.S. has dismantled military bases along the formerly (1990’s) proposed pipeline route. Success would be if America learns that our knee jerk form of foreign policy has created more problems than it has solved. Absolute success would be if the American people realized that their paranoia has us spending ourselves into ruin by trying to control the world. Afghanistan is known as the graveyard of empires. Going by the military strategy of destroying a village in order to save it, maybe Afghanistan will in some way actually save America. -Rick Guerard, Oak Creek, WI

First, ‘success’ is a very subjective term–my opinion is probably very different than Afghanis view of success. I am currently reading A Thousand Splendid Suns by Hosseini, and this great book teaches you about three decades of war-torn Afghanistan and fictional characters living in it. Success to those characters would mean equal rights for women instead of Islamic law. The ability to walk down a street peacefully. Courts that BELIEVE the words of women are just as truthful as men. Changing the minds of Taliban militiamen to put down weapons and pick up a job. It means bringing an economy to a country that has been in a civil war for years. -Daniel Burazer, Mt. Holly, NC

Like the Afghanistan of the 60’s, or of Greg Mortensen’s dreams. One with schools for all, fruitful orchards, engaged artisans and business people, and free and fair elections. The first step is disarmament of the country – all sides. The second is infrastructure. And it all comes down to trust – in themselves, in us, in the rest of the world. Trust. -Stacy Plemmons, Fort Collins, CO

If it were not for Osama bin Laden who seems to be completely out of the news these days, we would not have any troops in Afghanistan today. Other countries such as Somalia are now emerging as sanctuaries for Osama. What are our goals for remaining in Afghanistan; what will it take for us to leave? -James Friedlander, Brunswick ME

The United States would realize that Afghanistan belongs to the Afghan people and that we have no business there whatsoever and that the great game for oil is a pure disaster. the only way to peace is to give up war and end the use of oil. -Greg Gerritt, Providence, RI

There will be no definable “success” in Afghanistan just as there was no definable success in Vietnam or Iraq. Fighting terrorism using our military is playing a never-ending game of ‘whack-a-mole’ as we move from country to country in a futile attempt to stop ideas with bullets and bombs. Success over terrorism will only come about when Americans rejoin the world community as a true partner and stop efforts to mold other countries into our own image. -John Andreini, St. Louis Park, MN

Rule of law, sustained international trade and no safe havens for the Taliban or al-Qaeda. -Dana Haynes, Portland, OR

Success: a stable government (not necessarily a single central government, but a system most Afghans support) without militant Taliban domination, but possibly Taliban political participation. It would be nice if the government banned poppy/heroin growing & trafficking, and guaranteed women’s rights, but that might be too much to hope for now. -Ronald Miller, Huntsville, AL

A stable government which is capable of defending itself. -Fred Green, Minneapolis, MN

Success for who? The US goals are a pipeline that bypasses Iran and a base from which to penetrate Central Asia. These are in no one’s interest except for some western corporations. For the Pashtuns, success might be a nation of their own. The British-imposed Durand line put a third of them in Pakistan and the rest in Afghanistan. For people in general success would be for the US to leave Afghanistan sooner rather than later. The money wasted on war could be spent on health care at home. -Per Fagereng, Portland, OR

Success by military means is elusive to measure, as it’s about perceptions and what people will tolerate their taxes being spent on. Clearly people will vigorously scrutinize health care reform, but NEVER the unquestioned trillions annually spent on America’s military overall let alone its actions in Afghanistan & Iraq. (Basically at the expense of providing universal health care at home.) The Afghan contradiction? Spending on the war’s fighting side is viewed as legitimate when a ‘win’ is in mind, but success really means winning the peace, transforming the place economically, politically & more. Sadly US voters are not so tolerant of this. -Bruce Dickson, Portland, OR

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