As leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev fought a war in Afghanistan for nearly a decade to no avail other than thousands of deaths and the collapse of the country of which he was in charge. It has frequently been dubbed “Russia’s Vietnam.” Similarly, the U.S. has been fighting a war in Afghanistan for more than nine years and counting with almost no end in sight. Gorbachev finally realized that fighting a war in Afghanistan was unwinnable and withdrew his troops, and it’s time President Barack Obama and Congress did the same thing.
In an interview with the BBC, Gorbachev said, “Victory is impossible in Afghanistan. Obama is right to pull the troops out, no matter how difficult it will be.” If anyone is qualified to make that statement, it is Gorbachev. Now that Obama is in the same situation Gorbachev was about 20 years ago, it is only appropriate that he heed his advice.
In 2001, attacking Afghanistan made sense and there was little objection. But the conflict in Afghanistan did not start there.
Osama bin Laden left his home nation of Saudi Arabia to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan in 1979. He received security training from the CIA, and Congress supported bin Laden’s troops through the efforts of Rep. Charlie Wilson, actions that inspired the 2007 movie “Charlie Wilson’s War.”
After the Soviets left Afghanistan in 1989, the United States quickly withdrew from Afghanistan, and the weapons it had given away are now in the hands of the Taliban. This shows that bin Laden may be able to defeat two major superpowers, the Soviet Union and the United States, and do it in the same manner: by having his opponent fight an endless war in Afghanistan and by bankrupting the country he’s fighting against.
Charlie Wilson said, “I think the bloodying [of the Soviet Union’s Red Army] had a great deal to do with the collapse of the Soviet Union.” If we continue the course we are on indefinitely, we can expect to suffer the same fate.
The War in Afghanistan, like the Iraq War, started as intense conventional warfare but descended into guerilla warfare and nation-building. Rather than avenging Sept. 11 attacks, we are trying to develop other nations while ignoring our own. With a national debt exceeding $13.6 trillion, it’s time we focused on our own nation’s problems rather than trying to fix other nations abroad.