Clinton and Trump should have mentioned Afghanistan

The US has spent hundreds of billions of dollars and sent more than 100,000 troops into the country after 9/11, but it was only mentioned once in the presidential debates.

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

The armed opposition has increasingly been targeting urban centres, including major cities, which has led to record-high civilian casualties. [AP]

Updated Oct 25, 2016

With the US presidential contenders sparring over beauty queens, the Celebrity Apprentice, Bill Clinton’s extramarital affairs and "bad hombres," the United States’ longest-running war was mentioned only once across three debates.

The 15-year war in Afghanistan has cost the US more than $685.6 billion. That’s enough to pay every high school teacher’s average salary of $56,310 for four years.

It is one of the least popular wars in US history, so it’s little wonder neither Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton nor Republican candidate Donald Trump mentioned it. With no end to US involvement in sight, they should have.

Here’s why:

1. Longest war

Whoever becomes the president in 2017 will be the third commander-in-chief to oversee the war in Afghanistan. Barack Obama, who inherited the war from George W Bush, has repeatedly had to scrap plans to reduce the number of US troops in the nation. In July, Washington announced that 8,400 US soldiers will remain in the country through 2020. That’s 2,900 more troops than originally planned, but far less than the nearly 100,000 in 2011.

Afghanistan was only brought up once, in reference to the NATO alliance, by Hillary Clinton during the first presidential debate. [Reuters]

Since 2001, 2,387 US soldiers have died in Afghanistan. 

The Taliban continues to make territorial gains and has shown little official interest in negotiations with Washington or Kabul. Diplomats and Afghan government sources say neither country has devised a plan for the withdrawal of US troops anytime in the future. The Taliban demands a complete foreign withdrawal before sitting down at the negotiating table.

Both nations are facing a costly war with no end in sight. 

2. The US still steps in when things get bad

In 2014, the US announced the end of its combat mission in Afghanistan and its plan to transition to a training and advising role, yet it continues to intervene to aid Afghan forces.

For example, when the northern city of Kunduz fell to the Taliban last September, the US used its air power to help Afghan forces retake the city.

3. Civilians continue to die 

More than 2,500 civilians were killed so far this year; over 25 percent were children. Of the 5,385 people injured, 1,822 were kids.

4. History repeats itself

When the US left Afghanistan in 1989 after the Soviet war, they left behind well-armed militias, which they trained and funded.

Years later, a bloody civil war broke out between these armed forces.

In 1996, the Taliban presented itself as the righteous alternative to the brutality of the anti-Soviet commanders who had been accused of war crimes and rights abuses.

The continued conflict in Afghanistan has made Afghans the second largest refugee group worldwide, after Syrians. [AP]

Fast-forward 20 years and Afghanistan is at a similar crossroads.

The Taliban continue to battle US and Afghan forces but neither candidate is talking about Afghanistan, where millions continue to suffer in a still unfinished, but rarely mentioned war.

Author: Ali Latifi

TRTWorld and agencies