Afghan failure; time to rethink war on terror

Author, Nicholas Sengoba. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • Research by Brown University estimates losses in the Afghan security forces at 69,000. It puts the number of civilians and militants killed at about 51,000 each. 

We would laugh and joke if the collapse of the raw colonial dream of the West in Afghanistan had not been a serious human tragedy. 

Research by Brown University estimates losses in the Afghan security forces at 69,000. It puts the number of civilians and militants killed at about 51,000 each. 

More than 3,500 coalition soldiers have died since 2001 - about two-thirds of them Americans. More than 20,000 US soldiers have been injured. (www.history .com/Afghanistan war)
The war, which was hastily launched on October 7 2001 after the twin tower attacks of September 11 2001, is the longest war ever waged by the US. 

It has ended almost exactly where it started. The Taliban, a designated terror organisation, is still alive and kicking and bossing affairs in Kabul. 

 More than $2 trillion has been spent on that adventure that has ended with the US and its allies beating an untidy hasty retreat. In a wider context of the wars on terror, in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Pakistan have cost American taxpayers $6.4 trillion since they began in 2001.

What is confounding is that after all this most of these countries have not ‘reformed’ to expectation. They have become more disorganised because of the fighting which has weakened central authority or even the solid grip of dictators who ensured some order despite their warts. 

In this new dispensation, they have become havens of all manner of terror groups that are mushrooming globally.  The likes of ISIS, Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab etc. The leaders of the world in this vein seem to be digging themselves into a deeper hole.

Their driving force is the quest to put to an end what they call militant Islam. The followers of the faith have many times found themselves feeling like they are all condemned. They feel like the war on terror is a war on Islam.

It does not help that with the new ways of war that depend heavily on flying missiles and other weapons from distances and less on boots on the ground, you have ended up with collateral damage. 

This is basically innocent people being killed or injured. This just increases the anger and resentment of the West and its ways in most of the regions where it has taken the war on terror. 

The West is for all intents and purposes viewed as an aggressor trying to impose its ways and beliefs in the Middle East and Afghanistan. Those who preach militant Islam procure sympathy from many Muslims who have lost loved ones in this cross fire.  

They view most of the authorities in their countries as stooges imposed by the West to market Western values at the expense of Islam.

So these governments are treated with antipathy and can only hold on realistically with the physical presence and assistance of foreign governments. That’s why when the US and NATO decided to count their losses and run, they climbed down the high horse and initiated peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

This should have been the entry point of the US and its Western allies into Afghanistan over 20 years ago! But they gave war a chance and now the rest is acrimonious history with a whiff of ignominy.

The lesson learnt here is that however detestable the culture and beliefs of a country are viewed, force may not be the best and safest option to change it. This is because these are matters deep down in the hearts and mind that must be worn over by persuasion.

If genuine change is going to come, then it will have to be through the application of soft power. But most importantly it will have to be organically initiated by that society tailored according to their needs and requirements.

Islam militant, radical or otherwise, will only get worse if force is applied on those who practice it.  The time to rethink the so called war on terror is now otherwise the world will continue losing more lives in expensive wars sponsored by the West yet the threat of terror will keep growing. 

Mr Sengoba is a commentator on political and social issues
Twitter: @nsengoba

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