Editor’s note: President Obama has announced that by the end of 2014, the U.S. will have just 10,000 troops remaining in Afghanistan and they will be withdrawn during 2015 and 2016.
I have a vision that, if American troops stayed in Afghanistan, this next decade would be better than the last one. After the decline of the Taliban in 2001, we were optimistic that we could defeat terrorism in Afghanistan and bring peace. We requested that the American government and the UN begin the technical collaboration to support our country.
It is now more than a decade later, but the work is not finished and our nation is not yet ready for American troops to leave. If they leave too soon, Afghanistan will become insecure for Afghans living here and also for visitors. Our country will be secure only for terrorism and terrorist activities.
Security may be the most important issue, but the continued presence of American troops in Afghanistan is vital for several other reasons, including the economy. Afghanistan has not built or developed its economic infrastructure, despite massive financial support from America and other countries. There is little investment in infrastructure to create jobs for Afghan people, including ones who oppose the peace process. To earn money or even get enough to eat, some people still are turning to terrorist activities—kidnapping, selling contraband or drugs, and other illegal activities. American troops are vital to help keep peace while we develop our economy.
Afghanistan is also in the center and heart of the Asian continent and the terrorists think their activities can be accommodated from here in our country. If troops don’t stay in Afghanistan, the terrorists won’t leave. It is a danger for everyone. Also, look at Iran. It is clear that Iran has nuclear weapons and this is a risk for everyone and we are right next door.
Afghan security forces are not yet professional with regard to technique and education. Some of them are addicts. They were not hired on merit, but because of whom they know. They take weapons in their hands without education and proper training. It is important that American troops stay in Afghanistan until our security forces can become more professional.
Our ethnic divisions also are still difficult. We have had a difficult experience with our own leaders because of ethnic conflict. We witnessed a lot of tensions in this year’s elections when the two top candidates for president, Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, were not able to solve their problems until the State Department came to mediate. The disagreement was terrible news for Afghan people because it threatened to trigger more internal fighting. That would put us at more risk for the terrorists again taking over, although now the two sides agreed to cooperate in the new government.
Overall, I believe American troops must stay in Afghanistan to help implement democracy, bring peace and political stability, and protect Afghanistan from becoming a secure home for terrorists again.
We must view Afghanistan like a child in a family who is still learning from her surroundings. People with little knowledge will follow anyone, even terrorists.
Photo by Sgt. Russell Gilchrest