Fifty years ago, Afghanistan was a peaceful place. Kabul was a modern city with a coeducational university. The Pashtun hinterland was little changed from the 12th century. Opium was used by locals as medicine and was just beginning to be sold in small quantities to foreigners.
|Kabul University, circa 1960.|
In 1979, the CIA set in action a deliberate plan to sucker the Soviet Union into a ground war in Afghanistan. The goal was to draw the Soviets into a quagmire which would kill their soldiers, drain their economy, and promote internal dissent within the Soviet Union. It worked better than anyone could have predicted causing the breakup of the Soviet Union and the fall of Communism.
The Soviets helped bring about their fall by trying to institute a western, secular society throughout Afghanistan. This brought in Muslim fanatics like Osama Bin Laden whom the CIA was more than happy to sponsor. During this time the CIA also helped the mujahedeen become major drug traffickers.
Our Turn In Hell
After the Soviet Union fell the CIA lost interest in Afghanistan. The civil war left behind was resolved with the victory of extreme fundamentalists called the Taliban.
And Bin Laden did not lose interest. He switched his sights to the "Crusaders," meaning the United States. After several spectacular, if minor, one off attacks Bin Laden hit pay dirt with 9-11. The US responds, determined to punish the Taliban and kill Bin Laden. Fail.
Fast forward nine years. The United States is stuck in a ground war in Afghanistan that is killing their soldiers, draining their economy, and promoting internal dissent. And the US is determined to stay in Afghanistan until, by force of arms, we have made Afghanistan into the country it used to be before we started interfering (peaceful and moderate).
Quag, meet mire.