When the U.S. first went into Afghanistan on October 7, 2001, there was one goal: to remove the Taliban from power. The U.S. forces overtook the Taliban quickly, so you may be asking, “Why has the U.S. now been in Afghanistan for ten years?” One of the main reasons the U.S. has been in Afghanistan for ten years is because the original goal of dismantling the Taliban was expanded into the goal of converting a primal country into a stable democracy. The U.S. has in some ways accomplished its goals, with only a few thousand Taliban fighters and an estimated 50 al Qaeda fighters remaining. However, there is much speculation that Taliban and al Qaeda fighters are taking refuge in safe havens in neighboring Pakistan and waiting to go back into Afghanistan when the U.S. troops leave. Given this dynamic, U.S. military leaders are reluctant to withdraw completely.
At the time of 9/11, the Taliban government in Afghanistan was believed to harbor al Qaeda terrorists, so five weeks after the terrorist attack on U.S. soil, American troops went into Afghanistan to dethrone the Taliban. Today, it is estimated by the U.S. military that the Taliban fighters number in the low thousands yet there are 98,000 American troops along with 40,000 NATO troops. One may ask: Why can’t the world’s strongest military defeat a few thousand Taliban fighters? One of the problems the U.S. military is having is locating the Taliban fighters. The Taliban fighters also use mines and roadside bombings, keeping U.S. troops off-balanced. The Taliban avoids traditional warfare to make up for their lack of troops.
The U.S. troops are faced with building a peaceful society amongst people much more accustomed to war. Another task the U.S. military faces is taking over Taliban-controlled villages and creating a free society with schools and markets there. Currently, before any Afghan children go to school, U.S. military personnel must convince the village elders that the school is safe to go to. Taliban leaders tell local villagers that if their children go to school, they will be killed. Even though the Taliban’s numbers are relatively small, the threat of the Taliban is great. What the U.S. forces are trying to do is develop counter-terrorism methods that can be used by Afghan troops so that the Taliban do not return to power. This is very difficult and requires the U.S. to continue to fight in Afghanistan.
Ten years after the U.S. first invaded Afghanistan, the ambitious goal of making Afghanistan into a peaceful and secure nation is still a challenge. This war has cost 1,800 American lives and almost 500 billion dollars or 2 billion dollars a week. Despite this enormous cost, there have been some positive results of the war in Afghanistan. For example, when the Taliban was in power, Afghan women weren’t allowed to vote or go to school. Now that the Taliban is not in power, Afghan women vote and go to school. Nevertheless, Afghanistan is still a very primitive nation with widespread illiteracy and a corrupt government. Therefore, the U.S. strategy of democratizing will be ongoing.