By Ishita Gopal
Edited by Namitha Sadanand, Associate Editor, The Indian Economist
9/11 marked a day in the history of the United States that no one will ever forget. The twin towers came tumbling down and from its ashes, the harbinger of doom, the black Phoenix you may call it, was born. It would reside in Afghanistan, in its caves and its valleys for the rest of next 13 years and would overlook the bloodiest battle in the history of the world.
In the beginning, USA’s objective of invading Afghanistan was clear- to weed out Al-Qaeda operatives, defeat the oppressive Taliban regime that had provided a safe haven to terrorists and refused to take action against them (citing preposterous obligations of extending niceties to “guests”), and to kill Osama bin Laden – the mastermind behind 9/11, the man who brought tremendous embarrassment to the most advanced country in the world and made every American question its defence system.
Bin Laden’s objective, as stated by many analysts, was to draw American troops to Afghanistan and engage them in war. He wanted to make sure that the Americans don’t win, thus sending out a strong message of fear to the west.
On October 7, 2001 (just few weeks after 9/11), America went on an offensive to destroy Al-Qaeda and kill Osama. The mission was named ‘Operation: Enduring Freedom’.
K2 in Uzbekistan was made the air base from where the US held talks with the Northern alliance, war lords of Afghanistan who were also exasperated with the despotic Taliban. They decided to go to war together.
Mazar-e-Sharif was the first city to be liberated from the clutches of Taliban and Al-Qaeda forces. Three days later Kabul fell. A tough battle awaited in the city of Konduz but AC-130 (a ground attack aircraft) or ‘Angel of Death’ as it’s famously called, did its job perfectly and led to Taliban’s surrender in this area as well.
Everything was going according to plan, and faster than what the Americans had expected. What they didn’t anticipate, though, was the regrouping of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban near Pakistan border. Operation Anaconda was launched which finally succeeded in removing majority of terrorists from the valley, but an unknown number of fighters were able to escape back into Pakistan.
Many such operations have ensued through the past 13 years, in which power struggles have continued and no clear winner or loser has emerged.
With each battle the reason for fighting has become more and more cloudy.
Sceptics say that this war has lost purpose, that the Americans don’t know what to do next. The diehard imperialistic nature of the BSA (Bilateral Security Agreement) puts another question mark on America’s objective.
The agreement will give full immunity to US troops, basically allowing then to kill whoever they want. It permits them to prosecute Afghans without having to inform the government. Along with this, it authorizes drone strikes and night raids that have caused immeasurable destruction and loss of innocent lives in the past. And the Obama administration has made it crystal clear that there’ll be total pull out of the military (zero option) if the agreement isn’t signed. This has created a kind of a dilemma. Wasn’t the objective of this relentless war to protect innocent humans and fight militants? To make sure that a government that supports terrorism doesn’t come to power again? What will happen if the same chaos and oppression culminates after the troops recede and there is no one left to defend the country except the highly under-trained Afghan Security Forces? It would seem like we are disrespecting the soldiers and civilians who lost their lives trying to create a safer world. Also, the words and actions of the government don’t align. Military personnel claim that the Al-Qaeda is now a mere name and that the Taliban is unlikely to claim power again; Afghanistan can survive ethnic clashes and that Pakistan is the main problem when it comes to terrorism. Then why does America want so much freedom to cause death and destruction for another couple of years?
Has this war become a power game?
Did the Americans come to Afghanistan to fight terrorism or to create an empire/colony from where they can extend their influence to the Middle East?
Surely, the answer would’ve been a resounding no in the beginning but now it’s quite ambiguous.
Ishita is a BA( hons) Economics student from Miranda House, Delhi University. She is a multitasker and likes to be involved in all kinds of cultural activities. Besides writing she loves playing Beethoven symphonies, choir practices ,and reading fantasy and fiction.She prefers doing research about a subject by first watching a documentary or two on it, and then reading a lot of articles from different newspapers. Her dream job is to own a record label while doing freelance writing for a big magazine/newspaper.