There are two ways out of Afghanistan for America and her allies manning the NATO-led Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan. They can establish enough security in the provinces to allow for a graceful exit or they can declare victory and leave. If they take the second option getting all their people and equipment out of the country will be problematic and odds are that they will lose troops in that effort. If they take the first option they will (eventually) be forced to fight with the Afghan Security Forces (there is no other way to mentor effectively) which will result in casualties. The war in Afghanistan is not over and is about to enter a second phase that may prove the basis of a model for re-establishing security in the many countries currently afflicted by the contagion of war.
The security situation in Afghanistan has never been worse. Earlier in the week ISIS (Afghans use the Arabic name Daesh) attacked a 400 bed military hospital in Kabul reportedly killing at least 30 people. That hospital is in the Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood about 350 meters from the United States embassy. The Daesh are not the Taliban; they’ve been fighting the Taliban in Nangarhar Province for the past several years. How the Daesh is able to inject fighters inside the “Ring of Steel” is a mystery with few palatable explanations. The end appears to be near and we are still there.
We were supposed to declare victory and leave Afghanistan; Obama once promised to withdraw all U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan within 16 months of taking office for his second term. But he had to slow and then stop the withdraw as the security situation deteriorated to the extent that we could not disengage without it being seen as cutting and running on a country we promised to help.
Now we are returning with the intent of staying to see this thing through to the bitter end. Most Americans will have no idea about our growing commitment in Afghanistan unless the Marines start to take casualties. If they do we can anticipate a lot of media attention that focuses on the casualties but produces little understanding of why the Marines are there or what they are accomplishing.
The Marines from Task Force Southwest who I spoke with last month were mostly veterans of prior Afghanistan deployments. They have worked with the Afghans before and are confident they will have a positive impact on them when they return. That is their mission and where they focus; not one man or woman among them is the least bit hesitant to return.
I’m not the least bit hesitant either. When I started my go fund me effort to embed in Afghanistan one of my best friends posted an article on Rhino Den that was not exactly an endorsement. This trip will require loitering in Kabul for a few days before I embed to obtain the proper credentials. Every journalist entering Afghanistan has to do that which is why there will not be many there. Kabul is not the safe, hospitable city it once was but despite this experienced internationals move around the capitol every day. Going back to Afghanistan to embed with the Marines is not going to be hard or risky for the brief amount of time I’ll be outside the wire.
The deplorable state security in Afghanistan is the direct result of our failure to bring security and good governance to the citizens of that proud country. The Afghans have contributed to that failure as have other countries like Pakistan and Iran. We could have pulled out in 2016 and blamed the resulting chaos on politicians in DC but the military, the ones who still have their skin in the game and will pay a price for staying, said that leaving the country in chaos would be not only a strategic but a moral failure.
The Marines are returning to the fray just 300 strong without fear, without doubts, and without questions about the importance or risk of this unique deployment. They deserve to have their story told by a reporter who understands them and the people of Afghanistan. Please contribute to my go fund me effort to bring this story home to the people who sent the Marines on this difficult and dangerous mission.