The Graveyard of Empires

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United States Troops in Afghanistan. The United States is still entrenched in the longest war in our nation’s history: the war in Afghanistan. October of this year will mark the 20-year anniversary of the conflict. Photo courtesy of Tasnim News.

The United States is still entrenched in the longest war in our nation’s history: the war in Afghanistan. October of this year will mark the 20-year anniversary of the conflict. Two decades flecked with death, suffering and destruction for the Afghan people as well as U.S. military personnel. A colloquial term for Afghanistan is “the graveyard of empires” because of how many nations have failed to completely conquer and pacify the region. The British Empire, the Soviet Union and most recently the United States. So much imperial ambition has been snuffed out by this region that, in my opinion, it has earned the moniker. 

 The natural question to ask is why the United States is still involved in this Afghan quagmire. The Biden administration has recently, as per the Washington Post, not committed to giving an exit date for the conflict. I would posit that this is because of a combination of the military-industrial complex and growing Taliban power.  

“A sad simple fact is that war breeds money. Companies like Raytheon rely on U.S. foreign intervention to sell weapons.”

The military-industrial complex fuels much of the current war in Afghanistan. A sad simple fact is that war breeds money. Companies like Raytheon rely on U.S. foreign intervention to sell weapons. President Biden’s Secretary of Defense, Lloyd J. Austin III, was on the board of Raytheon before his appointment. The harsh reality is that money in politics is the one of the main contributors to the longevity of the war in Afghanistan as the interests of defense contractors supersede the United States’ moral obligation to pull out. 

The United States has been involved in Afghanistan since the 1980s. The United States armed and trained Mujahedeen groups to fight against the Soviet Union; these groups later formed the Taliban. The New York Times reported in 2020 that the Taliban currently controls more territory now than they have since the 2001 invasion. As the Taliban grows in power, the Afghan people continue to suffer with no good options at their disposal. If the United States leaves, this would essentially surrender Afghanistan to the Taliban as they would be able to overwhelm the democratic government. 

The situation in Afghanistan is a seemingly impossible problem for the United States to navigate successfully. Eventually the United States will have to leave, as the war has already cost $2 trillion in taxpayer money. Hopefully quite soon, we may see an end to the carnage and in the wake, a rebirth of Afghanistan free from the shackles of foreign intervention and radical insurgency.  

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