Print Contact Articles by Subject The Middle East What is the U.S. Goal in Afghanistan?

What is the U.S. Goal in Afghanistan?

June 11, 2016

Fifteen years after 9/11, what is the goal of the U.S. war in Afghanistan? 

On its current path, Afghanistan runs the risk of becoming fifty or more separate kingdoms. Foreign extremists have begun to move in, buying houses and weapons. Afghanistan may become unique in being both a training ground and munitions dump for foreign terrorists and at the same time the world’s largest poppy field.
- Abdul Haq in a letter to Ambassador Peter Tomsen, U.S. Special Envoy to the Afghan Mujahideen, 1992

Why are the Arabs here? The U.S. brought the Arabs to Pakistan and Afghanistan. Washington gave them money, gave them training, and created ten or 15 different fighting groups. The U.S. and Pakistan worked together. The minute the pro-Communist regime collapsed, the Americans walked away – and didn't even clean up their shit. They brought this problem to Afghanistan.
- Abdul Haq to Newsweek, October 26, 2001 (shortly before he was killed)

The undeclared and illegal war that the U.S. and its allies are waging today against the elected government of Syria is very similar to the covert war the U.S. and the same allies waged against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980s. While that effort succeeded in expelling the Red Army from Afghanistan, it also created a cadre of Islamist militants against which the U.S. is still waging war.

The fifteen-year-old U.S. intervention in Afghanistan, the first act in the Global War on Terror, has utterly failed to produce peace or democracy, but has yielded large increases in terrorism and opium. If the same pattern is now being applied in Syria, would it be logical to expect a different outcome?

In March, after my lecture in Manhattan, an English woman named Lucy Morgan Edwards presented me with a signed copy of her book, The Afghan Solution:  The Inside Story of Abdul Haq, the CIA, and How Western Hubris Lost Afghanistan


Edwards’ book is a hardbound book of 365 pages with a dust jacket and extensive endnotes, which she said was “a labor of love.” Having spent several years in Afghanistan, Edwards worked as a country advisor for the European Union and served in several other similar positions.  During her years in Afghanistan, she became personally acquainted with many of the key players and the multi-faceted political game that has been playing out in that war-torn nation since the Soviet Union withdrew its forces in the late-1980s.

After reading The Afghan Solution the reader is left with one perplexing question:  Why did the CIA give so much support to radical anti-Western mujahideen like Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and so little to capable and intelligent men like Abdul Haq, a leader with a sensible Afghan plan to end the fighting?

Much of the book is devoted to this question. As one can see from Edwards’ choice of words she suggests that “Western hubris lost Afghanistan,” i.e. that the quagmire in Afghanistan was not intentional.

Edwards explains how the Pashtun fighter Abdul Haq offered a viable Afghan solution to remove the Taliban and al Qaida factions from power in the aftermath of 9/11 – a plan in which the U.S. military would not play a major role, as it has since 2001.

Unfortunately, the path presented by Abdul Haq was the road not taken. With more than 3,517 American lives lost and 20,000 wounded in nearly fifteen years, Abdul Haq’s Afghan solution certainly looks like it was the wiser choice.  The fifteen-year U.S. war in Afghanistan has cost the American taxpayer more than $737 billion and consumes another $4 million per hour, every day that it continues.

As Ken Guest, former British marine and Afghan observer, wrote to Edwards in 2009:

In 2001 there was a far better option on the table that offered an honest and strong Afghan leader, the use of the tribes, sealing the border to prevent escapes and virtually no U.S. footprint, other than discreet use of Special Forces as observers for report back needs. In effect an Islamic rejection of terrorism as un-Islamic, exactly what we, in the West, should have been looking for and supporting.

In 2001 the West advanced without proper contextual understanding… We favoured wide bombing, often wide of the mark, ever expanding U.S./Allies ground force deployment, installing a weak leader, resulting in no government capacity and massive corruption. What we got is what you see now. It isn’t pretty but it was all perfectly predictable, and it is the sort of thing that happens when we fail to properly consider all the options.

The most obvious question raised by Edwards is why?  Why did the U.S. reject the most sensible path?  It seems obvious that the plan presented by Abul Haq would have been the most prudent and most likely way to succeed, if the U.S. goal really were to remove the Taliban from power and eliminate Al Qaida fighters from Afghanistan. So, why did the U.S. reject the Haq plan?

I wrote to Edwards and asked her if she thought it is possible that the CIA rejected the Abdul Haq plan because they did not want a peaceful Afghanistan, but a weak and destabilized country where opium and terrorism could flourish.


As political journalist and writer Dan Glazebrook told RT recently:

We really have to understand that the key goal of the U.S. in Afghanistan is to keep it weak, destabilized, prevent it from becoming a peaceful stable country at peace with its neighbors. Because if that were to happen, that would mean very likely making agreements with Russia, China. It’s a very important country geo-strategically, potentially being a gas supply route and its geographical proximity to Russia, China, India and so on means that the U.S. doesn’t want to risk it becoming a stable, peaceful country. 

Edwards gives the CIA the benefit of the doubt in concluding that the U.S. agency lost Afghanistan due to hubris and incompetence. The historical record, however, suggests that the CIA rejected the Haq plan because the agency’s real aim, at the highest level, was not to eradicate Islamic terrorist groups, but to foment and support them in order to create an Islamic enemy, the opposition against whom the next war, the War on Terror, would be fought.

©2022 Christopher Bollyn | Sitemap | christopher at bollyn dot com