A spokesperson for the Taliban called President Obama’s plan for Afghanistan “no solution.” Meanwhile, responses from American politicians have varied since Obama announced on Tuesday night that he would send 30,000 more troops to the country. Democrats came out against the proposal, while Republicans supported it, but objected to the withdrawal timeline that Obama set out. Yet unless the international community addresses Afghanistan’s social issues, there will, indeed, be no solution.
Regardless of the number of troops that go to Afghanistan, more important things must not fall through the cracks. For the cost of sending one American soldier to Afghanistan, it is possible to build 20 schools. The influence of schools and social services has a far more lasting impact than a tour of duty, and a purely positive one, as compared to the more than mixed results of the war. Part of the enduring problem in Afghanistan is that there is little infrastructure in place, and continuing to wage war there will not fix that problem. Social service projects implemented by a legitimate Afghani government are also likely to receive the support of the Afghan people, and draw them away from the Taliban.
The infrastructure that the Taliban offers draws many disgruntled citizens toward the group, so providing an alternative source of social services may be the most effective means of drawing these citizens away. Having a more stable society will, in itself, prevent violence, and with it the unrest that threatens global security.
Right now, our track in Afghanistan looks eerily similar to what the Soviets faced there: years of occupation and war, an enemy that could flee to relative safety in Pakistan, and a pullout that left the country in shambles. The result? The Taliban emerged out of a desperation for unity and stability, and with it came the climate that allowed Al-Qaeda to flourish.
The current war in Afghanistan is the longest that the United States has ever fought. Let’s make sure that ending leads to a new future for Afghanistan.