Where does the war on terror stand in Afghanistan on the 6th anniversary of U.S. intervention? There are 40,000 to 50,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan waging a "war on terror" or at least, a war on further chaos. And in his October address to Parliament, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown appeared to some to suggest there may soon be more. Claiming that in Afghanistan there is at least a chance of success, Brown intimated that British troops withdrawn from Iraq may be sent to Afghanistan.
The Brits, like the Americans, ponder whether they want their troops in harms way on behalf of troubles that may appear to have scant direct relationship to their own nation's well being.
But there is yet another question worth pondering: whether foreign military intervention is helping the Afghans with their national security problem. It may not be, but in a typical paradox of wartime, leaving the country's warlords to reconfigure Afghanistan on their own may be a terrible idea as well.
War on Terror is Not Going Well
The war on terrorism in Afghanistan is not going very well. Although Afghanistan was claimed as a triumph following the quick downfall of the Taliban regime in the fall of 2001, those close to the situation could have reported then what became glaringly evident five years later: the Taliban never were fully routed, and certainly not from the provincial areas beyond the capital, Kabul.
In 2006, the Taliban openly pledged a campaign of destructive violence on foreign troops in Afghanistan. They have kept good on their word. A promised "a wave" of suicide bombs during the Islamic month long holiday, Ramadan (September 13 – October 12) has materialized, killing civilians, Afghan military and foreign soldiers.
As for Al Qaeda, they have put down stakes next door in Pakistan's northwest provinces. From there, they reportedly provide resources for Taliban attacks in Afghanistan while also helping transfrom significant chunks of Pakistan into an independently governed, extremist state.
Military commitments to Afghanistan wavering, but still strong
Military efforts in Afghanistan are run primarily under the auspices of a NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). In addition to NATO, the U.S. also has 26,000 troops in the country, serving on different missions. There are 37 nations contributing to the combat effort. Those with the largest number include the UK, Canada, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands. Both the Canadians and the Dutch have suggested they will pull troops soon. Australia remains unwavering, despite an Australian soldier's death on October 8, by roadside bomb. And about half of the Scottish infantry (1400 troops) is presently standing by for deployment.
Another indication of a military commitment in Afghanistan is the expansion of the U.S. Bagram Air Base. The base was originally intended to be a temporary barracks is now being rebuilt piece by piece – this time to last. This may prove to be a troubling symbol for all of the foreign forces, but especially for the U.S., since there is nothing like a foreign military base to raise local hackles, no matter where, no matter whom. Afghans are no different.
Bagram also has a bad history; a number of Afghan detainees died there when it served as a detention facility in the first years of the war.