The Price of an Empty War

Pavel Raskovalov, Staff Writer

Soldiers march through the streets, waving their rifles in the air. Humvees parade through the capital as civilians block their doors, close their blinds, and prepare for the worst. The army is trying to kill anyone who is even assumed to have helped their enemy.  The president has fled. The isles of planes trying to leave the country are overcrowded with people desperate to leave. They do not care where they are going, as long as it is away from there. This all happened in the past few weeks since President Biden withdrew all American forces from the country in August, leaving behind what Time estimates to be “300,000-plus troops and police. The U.S. has spent at least $84 billion to train and equip, and they vastly outnumber the estimated 75,000 Taliban fighters.” Despite this overwhelming advantage, the soldiers apparently only lasted for 10 grueling days, at last handing over Kabul to the Taliban on Aug. 15.

The Taliban were given full control of the nation, all while Afghanistan’s president fled the country, leaving behind millions of frightened civilians fearing for their lives. The 300,000 Afghani soldiers were equipped and trained for $84 billion over the course of the past 20 years, creating an army that should have been more than fit to fight and defeat the Taliban. The “soldiers” however, did not put up much of a fight. They not only surrendered all the political power of the country to terrorists, they also handed over all of their gear, which American taxpayers paid for. Time states that the Taliban “grabbed not only political power but also U.S.-supplied firepower — guns, ammunition, helicopters and more.” This firepower is not only limited to simple equipment like weapons and body armor as “some 120 western military aircraft have potentially been left in the hands of the Taliban — giving the Islamist militants more air power than most small NATO member countries.”

Senior Vasiliy Kovalenko states that “I think it’s horrible for the Afghan people, but their military should’ve done a better job protecting them.”  This is not the worst of it, as America’s previously defended bases that have cost taxpayers trillions were also handed over to the Taliban. This gives them a huge amount of American funded military might. The once-small terrorist organization has grown to the size of a first world military due to just one military action. Many hope that an era of an uneasy peace would finally descend upon the middle east, with a war that lasted for an eternity finally over. These hopes are naïve, however, as according to Seth Jones, who previously advised special operations in Afghanistan, “Under no definition of warfare would the end of ground troops be called the end of war.” He states that even after the U.S. withdraws all soldiers from the nation, drone strikes will continue and nothing will really change. He takes the position that ending the war could take longer than it has even went on, asserting that “this is going to be a long process of essentially unwinding a series of wars and authorities… I don’t even think a president alone could end the forever war. It would take Congress. It would take a shift in prioritization from the American public.” The current civilian death count of the Afghanistan war is 22,000, with an estimates 75,000 wounded. Knowing that these numbers will continue to rise even after the US has apparently “withdrawn” is mortifying.

The quality of life of Afghanistan citizens will not improve either, as the Taliban do not seem to be in favor of giving people even the most basic human rights. Although being outspoken from inside the war-torn country is difficult, a female student by the name of Sahar has spoken out about the recent events on Fox News. She called the Taliban a group of “savage puppets.” Further, she states “Well, I am furious and saddened by what is happening, after all the challenges we have dealt with and issues within the national society of Afghanistan over decades and we have fought for generations to achieve what we have right now as females in society.” Through all the horror and pain suffered in Afghanistan, nothing has changed. The Taliban and their supporters will continue to oppress women, and unless something is done about it, nothing will change. The 2,300 American casualties will be for nothing, as the country will fall into a deeper pit of despair than ever before. Additionally, the Taliban are also reportedly attempting to detain and kill anyone who may or may not have assisted the US. According to an anonymous American woman stranded in the country, “The Islamic militants are reportedly ‘hunting’ anyone who has aided the U.S. in the war over the last 20 years and going door-to-door to do so.” Despite the US trying to ease tensions and end the war, the Taliban are still deciding to kill innocent Americans.

This entire occurrence will have a huge effect on geopolitics, as the Taliban now have a relatively modern military with all of the captured U.S. gear, and any attempts to re-enter Afghanistan would be met with significantly more force than ever before. Freshman Kara Cassiris states, “Maybe, under leadership and guidance, the withdrawal could have gone smoother.” Junior Anna Jensen took a similar stance, stating that the incident could have gone smoother “through better leadership.”  Sophomore Kelvin Lewis however, said that “No, it would have happened regardless of the government’s actions.” They added that the incident as a whole “could have been handled more professionally.”   Most of IHS still agreed that this is a major catastrophe, and that even though it could have gone better, the results would still have been less than pretty. The consensus at IHS seems to be similar with the rest of the world in the fact that they agree that these events are catastrophic and leadership is to blame. These events may simply be the start of something even bigger than the Afghanistan war itself, as the new power of the Taliban as well as the U.S withdrawing the only force that kept them at bay may provoke a conflict bigger than anything we have seen in the past few decades. Civilians are in turmoil, and things are only going to get worse. Things are going to change. Hopefully, it can be for the better.