(CNN) – We’ve heard Donald Trump’s views on Syria, Ukraine and on fighting ISIS. But one international issue trump has yet to mention is Afghanistan! Well that conflict could catch up with the president elect sooner than he may think: Afghanistan is in peril: the Taliban are gaining ground; the power sharing government is close to collapsing.
Remember, just like Donald Trump, the man who first went into Afghanistan, George W. Bush also started off as an isolationist wanting to end nation-building projects.
Well, this week marks the 15th anniversary of the fall of the Taliban, and – as Ivan Watson reports – America’s efforts to rebuild the afghan nation are struggling.
It is America’s longest war. The conflict in Afghanistan, It began 15 years ago. After the September 11 terror attacks, orchestrated by Osama bin laden, the al Qaeda leader was a guest and ally of Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban in 2001.
Less than a month later, U.S. Warplanes attacked the Taliban. After barely six weeks of airstrikes, the Taliban was on the run, abandoning Kabul to afghan fighters allied with the U.S. In the years after their defeat the Taliban regrouped and fought back against new western-backed governments in Kabul.
And now in its 15th year, the war against the Taliban has cost at least 2,380 American lives, killed tens of thousands of Afghan civilians and cost some $780-billion U.S. taxpayer dollars, according to one academic estimate. Yet, Afghanistan was barely discussed during the recent U.S. Presidential debates.
Though Donald Trump did say this to CNN in October 2015.
Trump: “I would leave the troops there, begrudgingly. I’m not happy about it, I will tell you, but I would leave the troops there begrudgingly yes.”
There are currently around 9800 U.S. Troops stationed in Afghanistan, as well as more than 6,000 other foreign troops from the NATO military alliance. Most of the conflict is now being fought by afghan security forces…whose casualties this year reached an all-time high.
Today the afghan capital is plagued by kidnapping and it’s also the frequent target of Taliban and ISIS terror attacks…that have shocked many Afghans.
“I could never imagine that the Taliban would be back at the gates of Kabul.” Political analyst, Najib Sharifi was just 19 years old the day U.S. Airstrikes drove the Taliban from this city. “It was probably the happiest day of my life.”
But his high expectations for Afghanistan have shrunk with time.
Sharifi said “the assumption that Afghans had from the United States was the world’s most powerful and richest country would come to Afghanistan and rebuild Afghanistan. However things did not turn out to be the way we thought.”
Though Afghans voted successfully in several national elections over the years. Successive afghan governments have been plagued by allegations of rampant corruption and in-fighting.
The last fifteen years brought education for millions of girls, construction of highways, airports and for the first-time a national cell phone network, but many of these advances are now at risk.
The Taliban controls or now battles to control territory that’s home to more than a third of the country’s population, according to U.S. Military estimates. Including this former U.S. Outpost west of Kabul abandoned by U.S. Troops to the Taliban several years ago and now dissolving into the dust of a country often called, the graveyard of empires.
Retired Colonel Rick Francona, a defense analyst said “if the trump administration made a decision that they were going to pull out its forces, I think there would initially be a collapse of the afghan government in Kabul. And we would see the Taliban probably sweep into power again.”
When president elect trump takes office, he’ll face a difficult question here. Should he keep risking U.S. Lives and treasure, on what often feels like America’s forgotten war.