Withdraw now

U.S. Army and Afghan soldiers are seen in a guard tower at their base in Panjwai, Kandahar province south of Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, March 11, 2012. (AP Photo/Allauddin Khan)

The killing of 16 Afghan civilians in an attack by at least one U.S. soldier Sunday is the latest evidence that the West’s strategy in that country has failed, coming only weeks after U.S. soldiers burned copies of the Quran there.

For some time it has been clear that the United States’ policies have not merely cemented the country’s political status quo, but have in fact increased the power and influence of the Taliban, boosting their control over areas of the country and enabling them to impose their religious and political doctrines.

What Afghanistan and the world are facing is the United States’ failure to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people. The burning of Qurans proves not only that U.S. soldiers are careless, but that the military is not smart enough to understand this and make adequate provisions.

Furthermore, under the current policy it is clear that the drive for women to become an effective and vital element in society has not had the success hoped for.

The only concrete thing NATO and the U.S. have to show for their efforts is more casualties on both sides.

The presence of the U.S. and NATO was intended to take this country into the 21st century. Instead not only is the Taliban strengthened, but the government is riddled with corruption at the highest levels.

Instead of being shown what democracy can offer, the Afghan people have discovered that what has been presented as democracy is actually a catalyst for more corruption and more nepotism, which appears to be sanctioned by the U.S. and NATO.

While U.S. President Barack Obama and some members of NATO have already declared their intentions to withdraw from Afghanistan, what observers inside and outside of the country want to know is why these troops remain.

In a no-win situation, as Afghanistan appears to be, the best thing to be done is to cut your losses. All indicators in the situation lead to the conclusion that the sooner these troops leave, the better it will be for everybody involved.

The mistakes the U.S. is repeating in Afghanistan should have been learned in the Vietnam War, which shares many features with the Afghan conflict, though thankfully the estimated millions of lives lost in Vietnam are not comparable to the figures in Afghanistan.

Though it is an election year in the U.S., this is an issue which should transcend political borders, with both sides attempting to reach a political agreement on the matter which would lead to a significant decrease in the number of U.S. and NATO troops, allowing the best to be made of a bad situation.

It is hoped the U.S. can remove itself from this quagmire and take valuable lessons from it, so its involvement could lead to something tangible in the future.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 12, 2012, on page 7.




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