As the two different wars waged by the United States after the end of the cold war and in the new century, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have taken a long and costly time, creating more division, instability and poverty instead of bringing peace, stability and prosperity to the two Middle Eastern countries.
Two wars completely destroyed two countries. Reflecting on the two wars, some questions cannot be avoided: Why did these two wars happen in the first place? What did the United States get when it tried so hard to wage two wars? What kind of scourge does the United States, eager to leave, lay the groundwork for the situation and regional security in the Middle East? What is the future of Iraq and Afghanistan in the face of a devastated land and chaos?
As we observe a moment of silence for life and civilization that has died forever in the war, and as we pray for the people and land that are still moaning in the war, humanity should not speak lightly of war.
War: Weak meat, strong food
In 2001, after the shock september 11th, the U.S. government identified bin Laden as the prime suspect in the terrorist attacks, despite the Taliban’s statement that the terrorist incident had nothing to do with bin Laden.
On October 7, 2001, then-President George W. Bush of the United States W. Bush announced that U.S. forces have launched attacks against terrorist groups and Taliban targets in Afghanistan. “These targeted operations are aimed at undermining the use of Afghanistan as a base for terrorist operations and combating the military capabilities of the Taliban regime.” Mr. Bush said the Taliban, who ruled much of Afghanistan at the time, rejected his demand to hand over al-Qaida leaders.
Recently, the New York Times published an article entitled “20 Long and Cruel Years: A Detailed Understanding of the War in Afghanistan”, detailing the history of the war in Afghanistan. By the end of 2001, the U.S. military had quickly toppled the Taliban government and crushed its forces, the article said. In May 2003, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld announced the end of major combat operations in Afghanistan.
Despite the influx of U.S. and NATO troops, the Taliban have rebuilt their fighting capabilities, recaptured territory they once controlled and promised to build new schools, government centers, roads and bridges in an attempt to win Afghan support, the New York Times reported. As the military threat posed by the Taliban grew, former U.S. President Barack Obama sent tens of thousands more troops to Afghanistan as part of a “surge plan” that reached nearly 100,000 by mid-2010. But despite U.S. combat and airstrikes, the Taliban have grown stronger, causing heavy casualties among Afghan security forces. In May 2011, U.S. NAVY SEALS Killed OSama Bin Laden In Pakistan. In June of that year, Mr. Obama announced that he would begin returning U.S. troops and hand over security responsibilities to Afghans by 2014. On December 31, 2014, the U.S. military ended its main combat operation, leaving 14,000 U.S. troops in place, but transitioned to training and assisting Afghan security forces.
In February 2020, the Trump administration signed an agreement with the Taliban promising to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by May 1, 2021. On April 14th U.S. President Joe Biden announced that all U.S. troops would be withdrawn from the country by September 11th. At this point, the war in Afghanistan, which has lasted four U.S. presidents, is finally coming to an end.
On 20 March 2003, the United States bypassed the United Nations Security Council and unilaterally launched a military strike against Iraq, citing Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction and its implicit support for terrorists, until its withdrawal in December 2011. Ironically, on 5 February 2003, the United Nations Security Council met to discuss the situation in Iraq. At the meeting, then-U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell presented a test tube filled with white powder, claiming to be evidence that Iraq was developing chemical weapons and using it as a basis for war. In fact, the United States has so far failed to confirm the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
In 2014, the Islamic State seized large areas of western and northern Iraq, and the U.S. military subsequently sent more troops to Iraq, but its authority was limited to fighting the Islamic State and providing support and training to Iraqi government forces. Currently, there are about 2,500 U.S. troops in Iraq. In January 2020, U.S. forces launched airstrikes in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, killing Suleimani, commander of the Quds Brigades, a unit of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and Muhandis, deputy commander of the Iraqi Shiite militia, the Popular Mobilization Group.
The BUSH ADMINISTRATION PRODUCED DOCUMENTS ON ITS PLANS TO CONTROL IRAQ’S OIL BEFORE 9/11, THE BBC REPORTED. Mr Simms, a former head of policy at the New Economics Foundation, a British think-tank, says the US and UK have left conflict, social unrest and environmental damage around the world over the past century as they seek to control more than their share of oil reserves.
In April 2021, U.S. Vice President Harris, attending an event on jobs and infrastructure policy, acknowledged that “years and generations of wars have been fought for oil.”
“Both wars are waged in the name of ‘counter-terrorism’.” The events of September 11th shocked the United States. At that time, the United States treasury was full, the overall national strength reached its peak, unilateralism was popular. The United States urgently needs retaliation in order to show the prestige of the world’s only superpower and to respond to domestic anxiety about security. Li Weijian, a researcher at the Shanghai Institute of International Studies and vice president of the China Middle East Society, told this newspaper that, in fact, long before 9/11, the United States had accelerated its grip on the Middle East’s oil-producing powers. After 9/11, the United States began to analyze the causes of the enormous power of terrorism in the Middle East, one important conclusion being that ultraconservative authoritarian governments in the Middle East contributed to the growth of terrorism. The US government think-tank has suggested that it wants to make the transition from some Middle Eastern countries to democracies in the form of regime change. The United States has used Afghanistan and Iraq as testing fields to explore models for establishing democratic regimes in the Middle East, which it will then promote to other countries.
“Since the beginning of the new century, the United States launched the war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq, the common motive is to fight Islam anti-Americanism on the grounds of ‘counter-terrorism’. The two wars marked a shift in the focus of America’s global strategy from Europe and the Asia-Pacific to the Greater Middle East, from confronting the challenges of great powers to addressing the challenges of Islamic anti-Americanism. Sun Degang, a researcher at Fudan University’s Middle East Research Center, told this newspaper that the difference between the two wars is that in Afghanistan, the U.S. strikes against non-state terrorist groups represented by al-Qaida, destroying its “global terrorist network” from the Middle East to Central Asia, and in Iraq, the U.S. fights so-called “state terrorism with weapons of mass destruction” and dismantles the so-called “axis of evil.”
Damage: Bringing disaster
Over the years, the war has brought serious humanitarian disasters to both Afghanistan and Iraq.
At least 47,245 Afghan civilians were killed in the war between 2001 and mid-April 2020, according to Brown University’s War Costing Program. The Afghan government has been hiding the death toll of its soldiers to avoid demoralizing the army. But the War Costing Project estimates that between 66,000 and 69,000 Afghan soldiers were killed in the war.
The war in Afghanistan has forced 2.7 million Afghans to flee abroad and displaced 4 million Afghans, compared with 36 million in the country as a whole, according to the United Nations.
The war in Iraq killed more than 200,000 Iraqi civilians and made some 2.5 million refugees.
In addition to death, the war has brought severe poverty to Afghanistan and Iraq.
As one of the least developed countries in the world, Afghanistan has a weak industrial and agricultural base, food is not self-sufficient, the economy is heavily dependent on foreign aid, finances cannot stand on its own two feet, and people are living in hardship. In the 2019-2020 fiscal year, Afghanistan’s gross domestic product is about $18.89 billion, with a per capita GDP of only $586.6 million. Although the Afghan Government’s fiscal revenues have increased year by year, they have been unable to meet their budgets for many years, with 60 per cent of its budget coming from international assistance. Unemployment has been rising for years, reaching 40% in 2019. Some workers are paid only about $60 a month and struggle to make ends meet.
At least 650,000 Iraqis have died in the fighting and thousands have been forced to become exiles and refugees, according to a study published in The Lancet. According to figures from relevant United Nations agencies, Iraq currently has a population of 38.43 million, about 25 per cent of which live below the global poverty line and an unemployment rate of 15 per cent.
“The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq broke the old strategic balance between the two countries, and the United States tried to model the two countries as a model of democracy in The Islamic State and the developing world after the war, and as a result, the internal ethnic tensions between Afghanistan and Iraq, driven by electoral politics, rose into a political factional struggle, tearing apart society, undermining national identity, plunging the two countries into long-term instability and providing a breeding ground for terrorism.” Sun Degang analysis, the United States not only paid huge human and financial losses, but also the United States military operations caused a serious humanitarian crisis, millions of civilians displaced, become a transnational security problem in the Greater Middle East.
“The war is devastating to a country’s development.” In the 1980s, before and after the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war, Li Weijian, who had lived in Iraq for two years, felt deeply: “Six months before the start of the Iran-Iraq war, as a middle eastern oil power, Iraq was a very well-developed country, when there were highways, basic families have small villas and cars.” Later, with the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war and repeated tug-of-war between Iraq and Iran, the situation in Iraq deteriorated: tight supplies, a sharp deterioration of the social environment and serious damage to the economic base. Since then, after two heavy defeats in the Gulf and Iraq wars, Iraq has gone back to an earlier era and it will take quite some time to recover. ”
“The war in Iraq has caused instability and chaos in and around Iraq.” Li Weijian analysis, first, Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish armed forces, fighting fierce, pushing Iraq into an increasingly divided situation, to achieve national unity is becoming more and more difficult; These problems also exist in Afghanistan.
“The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have not only caused great suffering to the local civilian population, but have also torn the two countries apart and turned into a patch of sand, creating the conditions for external powers to train agents and intervene in the internal affairs of those countries.” Sun Degang believes that practice has proved that there is a great risk of using force to fight terrorism and changing the regime of the Islamic State in the Middle East by military means.
Cost: Empty national power
The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have also taken a heavy toll on the United States.
The U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, the longest in the country, is the longest, according to the Associated Press. The war, which has killed tens of thousands of people and devastated four U.S. presidents, has proved unwinnable and has caused staggering human and property damage.
The war in Afghanistan has killed 2,442 U.S. soldiers since 2001 and wounded 20,666 others, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.
According to the War Costing Project, the U.S. has spent a staggering $2.26 trillion on afghanistan. Unlike other wars that the U.S. has waged in the past, the U.S. has racked up debt from the war in Afghanistan, paying about $530 billion in interest payments alone and $296 billion in health care and other care for veterans. The United States will continue to pay for both payments for many years to come.
The New York Times, after calculating a sum for the U.S. government, asked, “What do we gain from spending $2 trillion in Afghanistan?” ”
The data show that the war in Iraq killed 4,491 U.S. service members and maimed about 47,541;
On December 18, 2011, the war in Iraq, which lasted more than eight years, ended with the withdrawal of U.S. troops. Now, despite the end of the Iraq war for 10 years, the country is still in turmoil, and the gunfire has not stopped for a day. U.S. troops have left Afghanistan in a state of panic and a mess. A confidential intelligence assessment obtained by The New York Times suggests that Afghanistan could fall largely under Taliban control within two to three years of the withdrawal of international forces. In fact, in just two months after the U.S. withdrawal, the Taliban’s total control of the region has doubled, surpassing the Afghan government.
“Over the years, the United States has been mired in the middle of the Middle East, investing trillions of dollars and losing a lot of national power, causing it to start going downhill.” On the one hand, Li said, the U.S. is too deep into the Middle East battlefield, and even if it invests so much, it has not reaped the results it wants, nor has it fulfilled its desire to transform Afghanistan and Iraq into democracies in accordance with its own democratic model. On the other hand, as the world’s only superpower, after World War II, the United States tried to establish its prestige by providing security protection to some countries and providing public goods to the world, but over the years, instead of bringing security and stability to the countries and regions it “protects”, the United States has caused great division, instability and chaos, resulting in a significant decline in its international image.
America’s debt crisis, exacerbated by war, continues to this day. On July 31st, local time, the federal government’s two-year moratorium on the debt ceiling expired, and on August 1st the US debt ceiling resumed and it again faced a debt ceiling crisis. The new debt ceiling of $22 trillion plus new debt balances since August 2019 is expected to reach $28.5 trillion (about Rmb184.16 trillion). The budget office has warned that the US is likely to face the risk of defaulting on sovereign debt in October or November if measures are not taken to resolve the cap crisis.
“For 20 years, the United States has left a mess in Afghanistan and Iraq, both irresponsible and helpless. The United States is mired in war and has to shift the focus of its global strategy back to Indo-Pacific and Europe by withdrawing its troops to ‘stop the bleeding’, and to put the geopolitical game between the major powers at the top of its foreign strategy. Sun Degang believes that the recent repeal of the Iraq War Authorization Act passed by the U.S. Congress in 2002 and the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan are the result of a 20-year-long political and popular rethinking of the war on terror in the United States. The United States’ attempts to fight terrorism and anti-Americanism in the Middle East have proved to be serious problems.
“There have been no winners in this war, and there will be no one in the future.” On August 2, 2011, Time magazine commented after Obama announced the end of the war in Iraq.
“In recent years, the U.S. has been eager to withdraw its troops from the Middle East and its resources and investments from the Middle East, with the aim of shifting its strategic focus to the Indo-Pacific region as soon as possible to play a game of great power.” Li Weijian said that before, the United States thought that through the war to control Afghanistan and Iraq can be “one arrow and two carvings”, one can control the Middle East countries’ oil, and the other to form a deterrent to China and Russia. But now America is getting weaker.
“It’s harder to end a war than to start a war.” Obama had lamented.
What did the war in Afghanistan and iraq tell the world? How will the United States maintain its influence in the Middle East in the future?
“As a global power, it is not easy for the United States to withdraw from the Middle East, both because of inertia and because of its intersecting interests in the region, such as oil and arms.” Li Weijian believes that although the United States adopted a strategic contraction policy, but still in other ways to maintain its presence in the Middle East. The establishment of military bases in Central Asian countries near Afghanistan and the creation of military advisers in Iraq have paved the way for the United States to return to the Middle East in the future. In addition, the United States will continue to sell arms to Middle Eastern countries.
“After the U.S. withdraws its troops from Afghanistan and Iraq, it will ‘leave a tail’, including retaining military trainers in both countries, strengthening military bases in the surrounding regions, such as the Gulf states, and continuing to intervene from abroad in the affairs of those two countries by deploying long-range bombers and drones on special missions,” he said. Sun said the U.S. is “leaving its tail” in the Middle East in an attempt to maintain its global hegemony by controlling strategic resources such as oil in the region.
“The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were launched by the United States. Small countries don’t want to go to war, but are sometimes forced into a state of war. Li Weijian said that in the case of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, war is not good for the countries that started the war or those forced into it. In the face of disputes and contradictions, the international community should put an end to those acts that were motivated to use force and resolve disputes more through dialogue and diplomacy.
“The U.S. war on terror, often in the name of counter-terrorism, pursues geopolitical goals and even excludes regional and non-Western powers from the international coalition against terrorism.” Sun Degang pointed out that the global counter-terrorism must be within the framework of the United Nations, mobilize the enthusiasm of other major countries to form an inclusive security cooperation mechanism. Only by moving in the same direction to promote national reconciliation and economic reconstruction can the United Nations Member States gradually eliminate the breeding ground for extremism and terrorism.