So when I read this piece by David Swanson, I realized he'd put his finger on it:
The idea that year 15 or year 16 is going to go better in Afghanistan than the first 14 years have gone is based on no evidence whatsoever, but merely the hope that something will change combined with a misguided and arrogant sense of responsibility to control someone else’s country. As numerous Afghans have been saying for nearly 14 years, Afghanistan will be a disaster when the U.S. occupation ends, but it will be a larger disaster the longer it takes to do so.
Afghanistan need not be “abandoned.” The United States owes Afghanistan reparations in the form of significant actual aid, the cost of which would of course be less than that of continuing the war.
Student of history that I am, I did some cursory Googling of the history of Western involvement in Afghanistan (another good article here). The British originally sent an army there in 1839, in part to thwart perceived Russian influence in the region. The Afghans rose up, and in 1842 drove the invading army out of Kabul:
On January 6, 1842, the British began their withdrawal from Kabul. Leaving the city were 4,500 British troops and 12,000 civilians who had followed the British Army to Kabul. The plan was to march to Jalalabad, about 90 miles away.
The retreat in the brutally cold weather took an immediate toll, and many died from exposure in the first days. And despite the treaty, the British column came under attack when it reached a
mountain pass, the Khurd Kabul. The retreat became a massacre.
Slaughter in the Mountain Passes of Afghanistan
A magazine based in Boston, the North American Review, published a remarkably extensive and timely account titled “The English in Afghanistan” six months later, in July 1842. It contained this vivid description (some antiquated
spellingshave been left intact):
On the 6th of January, 1842, the Caboul forces commenced their retreat through the dismal pass, destined to be their grave. On the third day they were attacked by the mountaineers from all points, and a fearful slaughter ensued…The troops kept on, and awful scenes ensued. Without food, mangled and cut to pieces, each one caring only for himself, all subordination had fled; and the soldiers of the forty-fourth English regiment are reported to have knocked down their officers with the butts of their muskets.On the 13th of January, just seven days after the retreat commenced, one man, bloody and torn, mounted on a miserable pony, and pursued by horsemen, was seen riding furiously across the plains to Jellalabad. That was Dr. Brydon, the sole person to tell the tale of the passage of Khourd Caboul.
More than 16,000 people had set out on the retreat from Kabul, and in the end only one man, Dr. William Brydon, a British Army surgeon, had made it alive to Jalalabad.
The above history lesson is offered without further comment.