Afghanistan: Listen to History

Long ago and far away but in the same Afghanistan, a major world power had flung its strength and military cutting edge forces against what seemed to be a ragtag, obsolete tribal army. By 1842, the world power military force had been defeated. This world power had colonized India well and sought to project its "forward policy" of defense into Afghanistan. The world power was Britain. Years went by and the Brits sought politely at first, to have their embassy in Kabul. It was rejected. Russia turned its attention to Central Asia. In the summer of 1878 Russia sent an uninvited diplomatic mission to Kabul, headed by Russia's General Stolyetov, setting in motion the train of events that led to the Second Anglo-Afghan War. Because Russian had walked in and created their embassy in Kabul, Britain was outraged and now demanded Afghanistan's king to allow their own embassy. On November 21, 1878, British troops entered Afghanistan at three points. Afghanistan, having turned in desperation to the Russians, received no assistance from them.

Thus, the second British-Afghanistan war begun and ran for a few years. The British were never able to control all of the vast area of the county and numerous warring tribes existed in many areas. Only key towns and cities were considered safe. The British never sent enough troops to secure and control all of the country, key provinces were secured, namely those close to the India border in self-defense. Britain had considered cutting up the country but again, military force alone would not succeed because too many areas remained in Afghanistan's warring tribes hands. Some of the tribal leaders seemed to side with the British, at least for awhile, but ultimately, most turned on them to repell the foreign invader. As time went on, the Afghanistan tribes discarded their differences and jealousies between them and coalesced under one leader, Ayub Khan. Their numbers reaching over 10,000 men. Many of their weapons were antiques but enough were captured from previous battles with the British to arm with modern rifles.

The Battles of Kandahar and Maiwand made Britain see the light and set in motion the withdrawal of all British troops from the country.

In 1979-80, the Russians returned and invaded the country once again. For the next 7-8 years, the Soviets sought to control the country as part of its attempt to expand its own borders. Like the British, they tried to control the key provinces while ignoring other areas due to lack of troops. The Russians were only successful to a degree but the numerous tribal factions grew to oppose the Russians. Arms were smuggled in from outside sources. The cost to maintain the invasion force ultimately made it clear to them the price was not worth it. By 1987, the situation was no better for the Russians than in 1979-80! They withdrew.

Now, the US tries and face the same identical issues faced in 1878! Even our commanders acknnowledge that at best, the war will end as a draw. What they are not saying is that even this will not last once all foreign troops have left. The whole system there is unstable subject to corruption. The locals fear the tribes and Taliban that remain in much of the country, the police are few and corrupt. Many fear the tribes also. The cost in conducting this mission is too high. Wiping out the Taliban or terrorists is an endless drain. There will always be some of them and it only takes a few of them to cause great destruction. The drug trade there provides them with cash to buy modern weapons. The US forces are looked upon by many as invaders, not liberators and the locals know from history, they will leave one day. As soon as the US troops leave a "cleaned" province, the enemy slowly returns like a deadly cancer, corrupting the police, government.

Like all other foreign invaders of Afghanistan, the US does not have the desire nor support to stay there indefinately. Time is on their side.

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Comments 3 comments

Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 7 years ago from United States

Funny, just yesterday I was reading a book written in 1924 about the long history and events in Afganistan from a British publisher and author. Was thinking how little we here in America know or have been taught about the country and how distorted some of our knowledge is.


perrya profile image

perrya 7 years ago Author

History, or military history, tends to repeat itself over and over. The intent or weapons may have changed but all else remains the same.


Hmrjmr1 profile image

Hmrjmr1 7 years ago from Georgia, USA

Not just military History dooms those who fail to heed its lessons to repeat it. Just that so much history is written in conflict makes it seem so. Good Hub

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