The critics ask: Why are U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan more than 10 years after the 9/11 attacks?
How did we get here? In the 1990s a radical brand of Islamists, the Taliban, gained control of the nation. Treated as outcasts across most of the world, the Taliban government allowed fellow outcasts Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida terrorist network to establish a foothold in Afghanistan. The seeds of the 9/11 attacks were planted by al-Qaida while being hosted in Afghanistan.
An outraged post-9/11 United States wasted little time in invading Afghanistan. Our mission was to bring to justice bin Laden and the other terrorists hiding out in Afghanistan and then to demolish the terrorists’ enablers, the Taliban.
After toppling the Taliban, capturing or killing hundreds of al-Qaida terrorists and sending bin Laden into hiding, it slowly dawned on Americans that managing Afghanistan’s future would demand a huge investment. A nation whose development is closer to the 18th century rather than the 21st requires money, manpower and dedication to make even slow progress.
The Obama administration has announced plans for a gradual exit of Afghanistan, including more than 20,000 GIs in September; most are expected to be gone by 2015. What comes after that date is a great unknown.
For the here and now, two quotes from Afghans in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal offer little hope that success is just around the corner. One tribal elder from southern Afghanistan shrugged that the suspected shooter "did this intentionally because he was Islam’s enemy. But even if he was a madman, what about all the other times when they’ve killed our innocent women and children? How do you explain those?"
A politician from Kandahar echoed that sentiment, "The Americans say that there was only one guy, mentally insane, who went out of the base and starting shooting civilians, but nobody trusts them."
A chorus of Americans in our historically impatient nation will continue to wonder if or when that level of trust will arrive, and how much it will cost.