America shouldn't allow its partnership with Afghanistan to fray
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Critics often call the war in Afghanistan a stalemate where the United States is losing. They ignore the positive side and broader geopolitics of the region. Pakistan and Iran are both tacitly training and recruiting insurgents in the region, while Russia still has ties to the Taliban that complicate politics in the region. Over all of this, ambiguity still looms over U.S. strategy.

Afghanistan is a country that connects Central Asia with South Asia, the Middle East and Europe. The geographic location of Afghanistan has made the country most vulnerable in terms of hosting the great game among super powers. The United States, Russia, China, India, Pakistan and Iran all have stakes in the country.

On the other hand, Afghanistan has occupied the world’s attention for the past sixteen years for all the wrong reasons. Terrorist attacks, day to day bombing, fighting and the doom and gloom headlines that appear on daily basis in the news media, have created a wrong image of the country.

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The positive side is unfortunately often ignored. During the past 16 years, Afghanistan has achieved a lot, albeit with help from the U.S. and coalition forces. Afghanistan has gone from a nearly destroyed nation to a functioning democracy with a free and robust civil society and press, which is symbolic for the entire region. Going through the civil war and extremist regime of Taliban, the institutions were almost non-existent. Today Afghanistan is on its path towards institution building where health care and education is provided to citizens and people enjoy freedom in every sector of their lives. 

 

In the effort to take responsibility for the war from coalition forces, the Afghan national security forces fight against terrorists every day. They are keeping the country safe and deny terrorists the territory and foothold to launch attacks against West and particularly the U.S. On average, each day 20 members of the Afghan national security forces give up their lives in the war against terrorism. In a summer show of force, the Taliban tried several times to take hold of some major cities. But they were pushed back by Afghan forces.

Given the fact that thousands of Afghan, American and coalition lives have been sacrificed during the past 16 years, we need win this war. After all these sacrifices, freedom and a thriving democracy in the region cannot be compromised and handed over to terrorists who think nothing of killing innocent civilians in their campaign of terror and pursuit of power.

The past two years were tough and challenging for the country. Internal political crises and challenges such as Afghan security forces assuming full responsibility of war, lack of necessary capabilities like not having close air support, medevac, surveillance and other necessary equipment, and a declining job market have put tremendous pressure on the government.

Despite all these formidable challenges, Afghanistan stood strong and is determined to route out terrorists. A progressive, democratic government is in place with a vision of peace, development and prosperity. A country that once was the worst place on earth for women now protects women's rights. From parliament to civil society, from media to government, brave women have had a chance to raise their voices and contribute to national development.

Yes, there are still many challenges with which the country is grappling. Insecurity, institutionalized corruption, an inefficient system of governance, lack of accountability and transparency, the limited  reach of the rule of law across the country and a powerful illegal drug industry are a few. Roiled by three decades of conflict, the country has inherited many problems.

We need to respect the sacrifices of those who have lost their lives for the mission to keep the world safe. What kind of message will we have for the families who have lost their loved ones if we leave the mission unaccomplished? Afghanistan and the U.S. are critical partners in the mission. They have common enemies and shared interests and goals. The two countries have come too far and made too much progress in the past decade and a half to falter now. The relationship should continue and constant as both countries need each other. America needs Afghanistan as much as Afghanistan needs America.

Without U.S. support, all these achievements will be in danger and Afghanistan could fall prey to neighboring countries, their sponsored proxies, and terrorists bent on gaining power. The lack of a strategy only generates problems and doubts. It also encourages countries such as Pakistan and Iran to hedge bets over the ambiguous and uncertain situation, and to increase their support to the enemy.

Even as the U.S. government is negotiating its new strategy in the region, the enemy is stepping up their attacks and colluding with other interests in the region to put pressure on the Afghan government and cause worry among policymakers in Washington. But the fact is that they cannot stand against Afghan security forces as long as the partnership with America remains strong.

Ahmad Shah Katawazai (@askatawazai) is the defense liaison for the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington, D.C.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.