Posts Tagged ‘Taliban’

Leaving Afghanistan, Finally

Sunday, July 18th, 2021

 By Bob Gaydos

 American troops are leaving Afghanistan.

American troops are leaving Afghanistan.

    I was born a little more than six months before Japanese planes attacked Pearl Harbor. I hope to still be around at the end of August when the United States military engagement in Afghanistan officially ends. That’s 80 years of war, more or less. Mostly more, as it turns out, certainly more than I was aware of.

       President Biden’s decision to finish the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan — begun by Donald Trump supposedly as part of a truce with the Taliban that never materialized — is to me both proper and overdue. It will be 20 years since American troops landed in Afghanistan with the mission of rooting out Al-Qaeda, capturing or killing Osama bin Laden and avenging the attacks of 9/11.

        That mission was accomplished in the Obama administration and Biden then argued, as Vice President, for a U.S. troop withdrawal. However, he was unsuccessful and the mission morphed into establishing a stable government and defeating the Taliban, two objectives apparently not enough Afghans themselves have been eager to see happen. At some point, and with a history of other nations’ failed attempts at “saving Afghanistan” to guide us, it becomes time to say, “Not our country; not our problem.“

         Harsh, perhaps, but realistic, especially with the U.S. facing a threat to its own government from within. It’s time for America to deal with January 6 2021, now that it has settled Sept. 11, 2001.

          And, really, does anyone think Afghanistan is winnable? What would that look like? How many more American lives and how much more investment would it take? Let Pakistan take a shot at it. Keep the CIA and embassy troops in the country.

          Afghanistan has been called the “forever war.” It just seems like it. But the truth is, American troops have been involved in one military conflict or another pretty much forever.

           In my lifetime, starting with World War II, the list of military engagements also includes the Korean War, China (repatriation), Vietnam, Lebanon (twice), Grenada, Panama, Somalia (talk about forever), the Gulf War, Bosnia, Haiti, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, the Indian Ocean (pirates!), Libya (twice) Uganda and, still, Syria.

           Much of the 21st Century military engagement involves spinoffs of one sort or another of the war on terror. This is obviously a necessary price of defending freedom and democracy and not only at home. But when it results in longterm involvement in a faroff country with no sign of diplomatic progress or 100 percent commitment from local forces, how long does the Umited States have to stay involved?

          “Let me ask those who want us to stay: How many more?” Biden said. “How many thousands more American daughters and sons are you willing to risk? And how long would you have them stay?” More than 2,300 American troops have died in Afghanistan.

         Biden is right. It would seem that cyberwarfare is a more serious threat to the American way of life than Afghanistan or whomever Iran is funding in Syria today. Let our intelligence agencies find the terrorist threats and plots to destabilize allies. Our troops will always be ready to help in a moment’s notice. But wars need clear missions and expiration dates. 

          Who’s the threat to freedom? Right now, it’s easier to identify them right here at home. They’re the ones screaming all over social media and Fox “News” to forget about the attack on the U.S. Capitol. That’s a war worth fighting.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

Malala Was the Clear Person of the Year

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

Time's version of a Malala cover.

By Bob Gaydos

I finally got around to checking to see who Time magazine selected as the person of the year for 2012. Turns out the editors, who have been known to like surprise choices, went with the safe, conventional wisdom choice — the leader of the free world, Barack Obama.

To which I say, in all humility, they got it wrong. Yes, Obama had a good year, but he was already president and he beat a chameleon to get re-elected. The clear person of the year, the person who made a profound impact on the world without being the leader of the most powerful nation ever to exist, was Time’s Number 2 choice — Malala Yousafzi. The 15-year-old Pakistani girl became an instant symbol of courage and hope and, I believe, a spokesperson for women’s rights worldwide, simply by refusing to bow to threats from Taliban terrorists and taking a bullet in the head as a result.

Malala, who survived an assassination attempt on a bus in her hometown and has been recovering in a London hospital, had already been an outspoken advocate for access to education for Pakistani girls for several years as a blogger before the Taliban decided that killing her was the only way to stop her, even though they expected public outrage. Instead, their botched attempt made Malala a worldwide heroine and sparked public protests in Pakistan for the very thing the Taliban fear most — educated women.

But something else has also happened, I believe. In neighboring India, traditional enemy of Pakistan, there were also demonstrations to support Malala‘s cause. And most recently, India’s culture of acceptable rape by gangs of men against women has given rise to large protests throughout that country as well as in Pakistan, where violence against women also has not been a major issue. Until now.

There is, I sense, a worldwide stirring for women‘s rights, most notably in countries where they have traditionally been ignored. These range from the widespread outrage in India over the death of a 23-year-old rape victim to the mostly symbolic, yet significant, appointment of 30 women to the previously all-male Shura Council in Sauid Arabia. The council is only advisory to King Abdullah, who made the appointments, but the move stirred protests by some Saudi clerics anyway. Saudi women have male guardians who guide their “decisions,” are not allowed to drive and will vote for the first time next year. Expect more pressure to speed the process of equality.

Back to India, where male children are much favored and abortion of female fetuses is still common, even though against the law. The public outcry over the gang rape forced authorities to reverse initial efforts to let the rapists go and punish the protestors. This is not India’s usual way of dealing with women. I think Malala has had a lot to do with that and with social media efforts to point out similar outrages by men in positions of power.

Even in the “enlightened” United States, political candidates, elected officials and judges have been publicly exposed for views on rape that can only be described as criminally ignorant.

Malala’s unique weapon is apparently an unwavering belief that what she wants — access to education for all girls in Pakistan — is unassailably right and, so, undeniable. She can see no other way. And her age provides certainty to her and, I suspect, a degree of shame to adults who agree with her but did not dare to say so publicly at the risk of their lives. She has no armies, navies, air forces or weapons of mass destruction at her call. She has no great wealth at her disposal. World leaders do not seek her out for favors. She is a teenaged girl with an innate sense of what is right and just, for women and men, and the courage to say so out loud.

As such, she has become the voice of millions of women, and men, around the globe. The person of the year beyond doubt.

bob@zestoforange.com