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The Afghan War

The Afghanistan War is at the center of a debate over whether the conflict is “winnable,” or whether the United States and its allies would do better to end the war.

The conflict arose in response to the attacks of September 11, 2001 on the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon, and a third failed attack apparently targeting the White House. These attacks, involving hijacked commercial airliners used as suicide attack vehicles, sparked outrage around the world. The U.S. was able to garner broad international support for an invasion of Afghanistan, in contrast to the situation it encountered when it invaded Iraq a few years later in 2003.

The invasion was justified on the grounds that it was necessary to root out al-Qaeda, and to replace the Taliban government, which was accused of providing support and safe haven to that terrorist group. So, on October 7, 2001, the United States and the United Kingdom launched Operation Enduring Freedom with the stated aim of eliminating al-Qaeda and its leader Osama bin Laden, and replacing the Taliban with a democratic government.

Initially, the invasion was a complete military success. The Taliban with its antiquated military equipment was unable to engage in open battles with modern U.S. and U.K. forces supported by advanced combat aircraft. The Taliban was removed and a second military operation known as International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was established that brought NATO forces into the conflict.

However, the invading forces were not able to eliminate Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network in Afghanistan. And although they were able to oust the Taliban regime, the organization was able to regroup and launch an insurgency against the post-Taliban, Western-supported Afghan government.

After eight years of war, the situation in Afghanistan had not been resolved, and instead is in a process of steady deterioration when looked at from the standpoint of the NATO operation. A close study of the factors influencing the war in Afghanistan reveal that the United States and its allies cannot achieve their stated goals in the country, and thus, they should cut their losses and end the war. In order to understand this reasoning, we should start by looking at the history of relatively recent wars in Afghanistan starting with the British conflict in the 19th century.

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