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Free «The War in Afghanistan Research» Essay Sample

This paper aims at examining the USA. decision to attack Iraq and also increase its foreign policy in Afghanistan and other neighboring Taliban strongholds from a variety of methodical perspectives, namely liberalism, realism, social psychology, ideological influences, elite interests, and personal psychology. This research study additionally aims at understanding the cause of the attack decision and consequences of the specific case study for wide-ranging theories of war. The study differentiates between different kinds of causal influence and investigates connections among diverse analytic perspectives. After the September 11, 2001 attacks, the United States of America declared a global war against terror constituting the most ambitious reorganization of the American policy on foreign affairs since World War II. Together with the reassessment of the priorities on foreign policy, the American government not only issued a stern warning to terrorists, but also took stringent measures to begin the process of rooting out terrorists. At the joint session held after the attacks in New York, the then President George W. Bush issued a statement urging the world to join the US in the war against terror. Additionally, he warned those against the fight as siding with terrorists and therefore dire consequences. The ultimatum strengthened the relationship between the US and other states that had the same interests of destroying Al-Qaeda. It however strained American relations with states that had history of aiding terrorist groups, for example, Saudi Arabia (Brodsky, 2004). Even though the September 11 attacks did not change much, it managed to alter profoundly the American grand strategy on foreign policy. The international system managed to remain intact. However, there was a reshuffle of the alliance system that serves as a basis for the American foreign policy since the World War II, thus making the war on terror the sole priority of the American foreign policy. The relationship between the American grand foreign policies and the war on terror emerged initially in the National Security Strategy in 2002. The report by the NSS created a connection with the presence of nuclear terrorism that depicted a catastrophic technology in the hands of a few who are disillusioned. The report claimed that the American objective was to establish decades of peace and affluence once the immediate enemy (terror) was defeated. The consequence was that the war on terror was a challenge to go on for generations against lethal beliefs of mass destruction and terror leading to a victory for the United States and allied countries.

New policies seemed to be the focus for the American government with a secret aim to gain global power. Almost two decades later, the war on terrorism is still adrift (Fitzgerald and Gould, 2009). Research, academicians, and critics alike now agree that the move was intellectually wrong and politically unsustainable. The terror attacks were rather tactical than planned and the enemy was not identifiable. This was the root cause of the doubts. The declaration of war caused the US to enter into a long war against a ghost rendering the move as a tactical error. The critics expressed fear that the war on terror could not be won using any conventional method. This matter was later aggravated by President Bush who made a statement suggesting that the war on terror would go on and on and might never come to an end. There emerged concerns that the war on terror should have channels that constitute the law enforcement branch and the judiciary rather than making it primarily a military affair. The consequences of the war, both intended and unintended, were also a point of concern as Human Rights Watch issued warnings that this could mean racism to any state with the intention of stamping out internal dissent under the war on terror cover. In March 2003, the war on terror kicked off with an American invasion in Iraq. This caused reservations about the war to be sidelined among the allies, but the assurance was short lived after Iraq collapsed into civil war and insurgence. Key American allies reconsidered their position and some even withdrew their support and troops following these proceedings. The United Kingdom refrained from using the term “War on terror” later after concerns that the language in use might have played into narrative of single groups like Al-Qaeda. This prompted the US administration to shift its language too calling it the Long War against extremism. The democrats have completely rejected the idea of war on terrorism and it appears as if the U.S. Middle East foreign policy is going to take yet another tactical turn in the “war on terror” with the recent reelection of President Obama. After scaling down operations in Iraq in his first term, the Obama team is at least rhetorically signaling that they will remove combat troops in 2014. By just about every measure, Afghanistan is still smoldering (and could possibly reignite) from the 2001 U.S. invasion and removal of the Taliban in Kabul. The war in Afghanistan might come to an end, but is the conflict over?

Historical Background to the Conflict

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In the mid 1700s, Afghanistan became a unified entity (Fitzgerald and Gould, 2009). This was despite it being an underdeveloped and poor country in an extremely hostile environment. The shape and size of Afghanistan as well as its degree of central control depended on leaders who most times hailed from the Durrani tribe of the Pashtuns from the south. Their biggest rivals were the eastern Pashtuns famous for their rebellious spirit and love for war. Starting in the 1830s, the Afghans fought twice over the weak attempt by Russia to gain influence and make use of Afghanistan to fight off British India, which was the present Pakistan territory. After the World War I, the 3rd Anglo-Afghan War occurred as an attempt to free Afghanistan from the British interference in its affairs. There was a clear competition for Afghanistan, commonly referred to as the “great game”. Between 1839 and 1842, the 1st Anglo-Afghan war occurred mainly purposed to block the influence Russia had from the Indian border and further extend the British control in Asia. It began with an immense invasion of the British toppling the then leader dost Mohammad, then an invasion of Kabul and other cities in the region. Eventually, the British withdrew. Contrary to the war in Iraq, the one in Afghanistan seems to be open-ended. The war has currently entered its end state as the security situation deteriorates and no ample political result is yet to be seen. Towards the end of 2009, a large number of Congress Members, officials in the American administration, and other parties made a conclusion that the efforts of the “other war” required a revised plan and more attention. After 30 gruesome years of unrest and conflict full of insurgency, efforts to support the security, development, and governance in Afghanistan are currently underway.

Soviet Invasion – 1979

Afghanistan borders were randomly drawn by outsiders, especially the influencing powers like Britain. It was important for the Soviet due to its shared border. Its population consists of a slack compilation of antithetical ethnic clans and nationalities. Most of these straddle the borders within the country with artificial separation lines that signify little to them. The fundamental social units and center of loyalty is the family as well as the Qawm (this is a local grouping characterized by kinship) and strict devotion to Islam as well as clan membership and residence. The Soviet incursion of Afghanistan in late 1979 is documented as one of the key moments of history in the years of the Cold War. However, the state of affairs surrounding this occurrence has remained to be foggy since the time they took place. Soon after Hafizullah Amin clinched authority in mid 1979 (by overthrowing his main adversary Taraki), the circumstances in Afghanistan rapidly deteriorated. The new administration promptly lost all power. The disturbing processes in the Afghanistan’s political sceneries and the regime system of government and the continued development of dissatisfaction among the population were vigorously irritated by peripheral forces unsympathetic to the reigning regime. The Pakistani government, the US, and more than a few Arab states quickly augmented military assistance to the opposition faction. A group of Pakistani military subunits and martial exercises were from time to time noted on the southern border. With martial and ethical support from overseas, by end of 1979 the rebel groups were able to increase the power of their unbalanced structures to 40,000 soldiers and instigated warfare operations in 16 out of 27 provinces in Afghanistan. In total, an intimidating condition had come up for the regime. Amin ambitiously took steps to steady the situation. His main strategy involved the use of force. The Soviet management had falsely fashioned the belief that Amin would be overthrown in a matter of days. It was assumed that the rise of resistance to control was just about inevitable over time. Details about Amin’s links with the US government came out. Revolts started in the military. In the meantime, Amin toughened his strategy towards the resistance and the Khalqis even further. Controlling socialist catchphrases and wrapping himself with independent terminologies, Amin chased the making of a dictatorial government and came up with a wide-scale crusade of terror and subjugation in Afghanistan unsuited with the affirmed goals of the opposition. He took on a strategy of turning the opposition into an attachment of his totalitarianism. First, he eliminated everyone who was against him, even those who ever disagreed slightly followed by those who had the power in the government and had the power to become his competitors. Soon, almost every anti-Amin group and faction were subject to repression. In truth, a hunt took place not just for the rebels, but also for some leaders in the reigning regime.

A number of conclusions can be drawn from the soviet invasion. It is quite obvious that the Soviet leaders held quite a low opinion of the Afghanis whose inadequacy in leadership skills and lack of popularity were fully known. Secondly, no evidence exists suggesting that Soviet bureaucrats considered Afghanistan as a well calculated prize that would scheme communist control into the Indian Ocean areas or the Persian Gulf. Lastly, the initial Soviet lack of enthusiasm to interfere slowly changed. However, for the most part due to interior events within Afghanistan in conjunction with a considerable measure of mistakes and misperception, their invasion was not quite a success. Specifically, the Soviets had long been not only wary, but also hostile towards Amin who was considered as irresponsible and impetuous. Soviet leaders held suspicions that Amin had links with the Americans. In contrast to the Soviet wishes, his faction went ahead to achieve authority and control during 1979. This was at the expense of the Taraki regime. In a coup in the same year (1979), Amin managed to overthrow Taraki and completely strengthened his spot. This coup d'état was a main setback for the Soviet strategy, which had sought to reduce Amin’s influence.

American Response or Provocation? – Supporting the Mujahedeen

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The Mujahedeen war started late in 1978 as a common rebellion against the efforts of the communist government's proposal to compel Soviet-style communism on an extremely old-fashioned and deeply religious country. Soviet interference changed the direction and mostly nature of the resistance (Coll, 2001). Concerned about the superpower (Soviet) expansion, several states including the USA, Pakistan, some European states, Iran, China, and Arab states started to provide financial aid and military assistance to the Mujahedeen. At that time, no country could even dream of confronting the then superpower soviet union. However, the Mujahedeen provided a good entry point and a room for confrontation for the rest of the world without direct involvement. Therefore, this was an American response as well as a provocation during the cold war period. It was the only chance they would ever come close to confronting the Soviet through young fighters ready to fight with any enemy.

Soviet Withdrawal – 1989

After a gruesome 9 years in battle and conflict, in 1989 the last Soviet military troops left the country of Afghanistan. Currently, as the US transitions out of the same countryresearch by war experts suggeststhat the American government has a number of lessons to gain knowledge from the famous Soviet withdrawal of their troops. The Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 was filled with a strategy for a Soviet-style nation under the Soviet control. However, as the war continued and as Mikhail Gorbachev substituted Leonid Brezhnev, the USSR started to inquire about their real task in Afghanistan.

Gorbachev finally accepted the fact that the Afghanistan war was slowly turning into a drain for Soviet already strained finances and a diversion from the Soviet's political undertaking. The USSR started their gradual withdrawal, but never stopped sending financial help and armaments to protect the Afghan regime against the Mujahedeen who were receiving help from a number of foreign powers including the USA. The American government can borrow a few tips from the Soviets' accomplishment through financial support of the Afghan administration and that the Soviet-backed Afghani regime did not fall to the Mujahedeen till 1992, once the mighty USSR collapsed and the leader Boris Yeltsin stopped all foreign aid to Afghanistan. This paper shares the opinion that the Soviet Union was overpowered in Afghanistan and strained to pull out in embarrassment. A deeper look into history, however, discloses that the Soviet from 1985-1992 proficiently coordinated its political, martial, and economic attempts to disen­gage from Afghanistan under its own terms. It planned to achieve this under the support of an international accord. It however left behind a fairly stable government, a better armed force, a terrible economic state of affairs, and a promise of a long-standing association. All the way through the pulling out procedure, the USSR leaned heavily upon the guidance of Gorbachev Mikhail and Najibullah Mohammad to synchronize the mechanisms of control. Two leaders worked hand in hand to develop a military policy aimed at getting control of cities, protecting main roads, and quickly equip­ping, funding, and training the Afghan army. All in all, in 1991 right after the Soviet aid was cut, the Afghan regime collapsed under the mujahedeen force.

Rise of the Taliban – (1994 – 2001)

The Taliban is an Islamic group that took over the government of Afghanistan in 1996 and ruled until 2001 when America drove it out of power. They were removed from power in the aftermath of the U. S. response to the horrific attacks that took place on September 11, 2001.The group had been well known to shelter and protect the al-Queda and rule under complicated interpretation of the Islamic law. They came into power during the civil war that took ages in Afghanistan. The group controlled about 90 percent of the country territory. Taliban rose from the mixture of Mujahedeen who was one of the holy warriors that fought against the invasion of Soviet in the 1980s together with a group of tribesmen from Pashtun who had spent time in the religious schools of Pakistan. After the retreat of the Soviet forces, the initial government that had been reinforced by the Soviet succumbed to Mujahedeen. The city of Kabul was later captured and a coalition of Mujahedeen set up a government under the interim presidency of Burhanuddin Rabani .However, this system of government was unable to operate and started fighting with each other. Due to this effect, Afghanistan was turned into a collection of territories that were governed by competing lords of war.

Later, groups of Taliban who were religious students became loosely organized on the territorial basis during the period of the civil war. Despite the fact that they symbolized a potentially huge authority, they did not rise as a united body until the Taliban of Kandahar made the step in 1994. In the late 1994, a group of well-trained Talibans were selected by Pakistan with an aim of protecting a convoy that tried to come up with a trade route from Pakistan all along to central Asia. They established a very stable force that managed to fight for Mujahedeen and other warlords. This stable Taliban then went ahead to take over the city of Kandahar. Starting with a surprising advance, they went on to capture Kabul in September 1996. The Taliban rapidly gained popularity among the citizens of Afghanistan. This was mainly due to the fact that many citizens in the country had become weary of conflict and anarchy. They were relieved to see the corrupt and the cruel warlords be substituted by the devout Taliban who had become successful in eliminating corruption, recovering peace, and promoting the commencement of commerce. The Taliban who were under the leadership of Muhammad Omar established a very strict institution of interpretation of the Islamic law or sharia. This law allowed public executions and strict punishments such as flogging, which eventually became normal events in the country. The most astonishing events were how the Taliban treated women. Soon after taking over the city of Kabul, they restricted girls from education. Women were forbid from working beyond their homestead, participating in health care and education. However. one of the things that fueled the growth of the Taliban is the smuggling of electronics and the cultivation of opium. Before the U.S drove out the forces in 2001, Taliban ruled about 90 percent of Afghanistan despite the fact that it was not recognized by the United Nations. 

September 11, 2001 and the American Invasion

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The seizure and crashing of America’s jetliner on September 11, 2001, resulted in an abrupt attention to Afghanistan. The hijackers converted commercial airlines into missiles and went ahead to attack the primary symbols of the U.S. economy, which were basically the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. The attacks were aimed at the world trade center towers in New York. The American airline, which had about ninety two people on board, crashed into the world trade center’s north tower. Few minutes later, another flight with 65 passengers struck the southern tower of the world trade center. About an hour later, another flight crashed into Pentagon. This was followed by another flight of the United airline flight 77 that crashed 80 miles from the southeast of Pittsburgh.

These led to about three thousand innocent citizens of America and life savers losing their lives due the horrific attacks. It was approximated that about 3620 citizens perished, which was the greatest number of Americans to lose their life in combat on a single day. Within two hours, many citizens lost their lives compared to the 1812 Gulf War, which was the Spanish American war.

The response of America to this event was very rapid and forceful. Within three days, the congresses spent around 40 billion dollars on the recovery purposes. President Bush organized a worldwide coalition against Afghanistan, which supported the al-Qaeda and Taliban government. On October 7, Afghanistan was invaded by the United States and other nations shortly after the September 11attacks. United States invaded Afghanistan because it was the principle stronghold of the al-Qaeda terrorists who were the mastermind and executers of the September 11 attack. Secondly, the government of Afghanistan was run by the Taliban. The Taliban protected al-Queda prior to allowing them to reside and carry out their operations in the country. Initially, America had asked the Taliban to give the al-Queda member to the U.S. and the Taliban denied. This facilitated the United States invading the country. America invaded Afghanistan with a goal of destroying the cruel fanatical government of Taliban and also recovering democracy among the citizens of Afghanistan. They also had an intention of capturing and eliminating al-Queda.

During the invasion, the American combined effort with some representatives of the anti-Taliban movement, such as Pashtuns in the southern part of Afghanistan. CIA teams were joined by the British Special Forces and the U.S. army. The British war planes destroyed the Taliban targets on October 7, which marked the commencement of the operation to endure liberty. In late October, the coalition had already overtaken a series of towns that were initially held by the Taliban

On December 6, the Taliban’s spiritual home, which was Kandahar, was destroyed and this marked the collapse of the Taliban power. A powerful manhunt of Omasa bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri (major stakeholders of al-Queda) was undertaken prior to killing of Osama bin Laden. As the fight continued, the Taliban retreated into the rural area of Afghanistan and went further across the border into Pakistan. In March 2002, there was one final major battle of the first phase of the war. This took place with the operation Anaconda in the province of Paktia that is in the Eastern part of Afghanistan. The battle involved both the Afghanistan and U.S. force fighting the militants of al-Queda and the Taliban. This operation marked joining of efforts of troops from other countries. This included special operational forces from Germany, France, Denmark, and Australia among others.

Theoretical Construct

The experience in Afghanistan has taught ruthless lessons to powerful countries on the limits of power. A good military theory should deduce conclusions on the history of the performance of war in every aspect. Examples, lessons, and recommendations learned from history elucidate or provide proof in sustenance of a statement or a theoretical construct. Additionally, useful theories should completely reflect on the consequences of present and future technology. In addition to the above, a good theory must not lean exclusively on the mentioned facts. It must be wide-ranging and flexible, concentrating on eternal ideas rather than short-lived ones. A good theoretical construct should separate war patterns and be without a doubt declared.

Levels of Analysis

According to the above insight into the War against terror, it is possible to explain the development and to forecast the results of conflict even those as complex as the ones that distressed post-1979 Afghanistan. One has the discretion to use a general analytical tool to explain the effects of religious, ethnic, revolutionary, liberation, and secessionist conflict in spite of the common belief that it is impossible.

Useful Theories to Explain the Conflict

A number of theories can be used to explain the conflicts mentioned above. Although the theories are purely the opinion of this research study, evidence and conclusions drawn from the above insight may be useful in explaining the events in Afghanistan that have helped to shape the global history from the invasion of the Soviet Union to their exit through controversy and the American involvement in the whole situation.

Most common theories that explain any conflict between organizations, groups of organizations, or countries include realism. This theory highlights intentions linked to power, national security, and resources. The theory is explained through unipolarity and the desire to maintain supremacy. After the September 11 attacks, the US felt a need to avoid post 9/11 decline in power by indicating its readiness to use force where necessary. The US also aimed at avoiding any form of nuclear proliferation, get rid of the Iraqi threat against the US and its allies. Also, on the stakes was the US desire to assist Israel Secure U.S. oil supplies, gain regional military bases, reduce energy vulnerabilities, and pressure Syria and Iran. Since U.N. inspections are unreliable, the only other retaliatory action would be sanction policies, which would only cause resentment from different interest groups. Contrary to realism, liberalism takes into consideration the difference between non-democracies and democracies and supposes it to be a basic reason of war. Democratic states harbor the fear that dictators will attack first and therefore prepare beforehand for any occurrence or provocation of war. They derive security from spreading democratic systems and human rights to other parts of the world. Going with popular liberal theories, a decision concerning war draws from states’ domestic attributes, predominantly their kind of government, and from the pressure of global law. Security at a global level as well as prosperity depends on the increase of social equality and trade and additionally on the conflict-regulation responsibility of international establishments.

The most common theory, however, encompasses the interests of the elite. A point of view that puts emphasis on sub-state interests draws attention to the elites’ incentives to participate in war based on bureaucratic, financial, and political activities (Lieberfeld, 2005). In accordance with the related diversionary theory of war, an unlawful or radical system finds peripheral adversaries to be politically helpful and could even take on war as a means of self-legitimization. The system may also generate accumulated approval regarding its strategies as it suppresses domestic division and opposition. From this point of view, missing the authenticity of an uncontaminated electoral triumph, President Bush held on to the political chance presented by the September 11th attacks to cover his legacy in the legitimizing layer of military active president for the duration of the short conflict in Afghanistan. He further prolonged the opportunity when he invaded Iraq and extended the politically positive domestic atmosphere that war created.


Based on the evidence presented, this paper is of the opinion that Obama’s new plan to gradually remove troops from Afghanistan is simply a campaign strategy that was aimed at wooing voters who were tired of the heavy taxation imposed on them for large military spending on foreign land (Sinno, 2008). The people of America see no threat in Afghanistan and they feel like the war on terror is just another excuse to gain supremacy. This is the paper’s stand and numerous foreign activities of the US in oil rich states or those with nuclear energy go a long way to prove that. Just like the Soviet Union decades ago, the US has realized that spending huge amounts of money in Afghanistan during hard financial and economic times does not auger well to the common taxpayer in the US. Although it was partly a campaign strategy, the fulfillment of the promise to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan by 2014 is President Obama’s only chance to leave a legacy where military might is concerned. Boosted by the recent assassination of the world’s most wanted man Osama Bin Laden, the President is eager to have a clean military record as he maintains the supremacy of the US without appearing much of a war hungry president as compared to his predecessor (Berntsen, 2006).

Of the theories presented above, the theory of related diversionary in war is probably the most accurate one in describing the war in Afghanistan, why it started, and why even after the objectives were met, it still persists. It is not certain whether President Obama will officially end it, but even if it does not come to a halt, nothing is surprising. The desire to remain supreme at the expense of others’ freedom and the desire to have political control over other regions and to monitor potential threats to the security of the Americans remain first on the agenda.


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