America has an obligation to finish what it started

Editor’s Note: The BBC covered the story after this article had been submitted for publication and approximately one week after Al Jazeera had reported on it.

CONTRIBUTED: It’s been called the “Graveyard of Empires.” The British Empire tried in 1839 and again in 1919, both times failing to secure stable rule in the region. The Soviet Union tried in 1979. They spent 10 years there before finally giving up, and, of course, we tried in 2001 – spending 20 years there before finally pulling out.

There’s a famous video game promo from SimCity that says, “Build Rome in a day, destroy it in an hour.” Like many of you, I watched transfixed at our disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan.

I watched as the Taliban took two weeks to destroy what it had taken us 20 years to build. I watched as Afghans, desperate to escape what we all knew was coming, clung to the wheels of departing US military aircraft only to fall 200 feet to their deaths.

But once the initial chaos was over coverage of Afghanistan all but disappeared from the U.S. media. Today, unless a person frequents sites such as Al Jazeera, you’d think it was all over. It’s not.

A week ago, Al Jazeera ran a report on girls attending high school in Afghanistan. Some were in their final year, only a few months away from graduating. Now, they may never graduate. When the Taliban reopened schools, only boys were invited back.

Effectively, America opened the door for these girls to attend school, then effectively slammed the door in their faces just before they graduated.

Recently, an article in BBC News reported on Afghan translators who helped the British military but are now being denied asylum in the UK. “They will hang me,” one man said, referring to what will happen to him if the Taliban catch him.

Some might argue that neither one of these is our problem anymore. After all, we trained and equipped the Afghan military, but they could not hold on to their own country. What else can we do?

But there’s more going on there than just the crumbling rights of the Afghan people. Two days ago, ISIS bombed a mosque in Kabul, killing over 50 people. It was the second deadly mosque bombing in less than a week. The Taliban might have been very effective at retaking control of Afghanistan after U.S. forces withdrew, but they have not been very effective at preventing ISIS from staging a comeback. ISIS is the entire world’s problem.

Perhaps we should have learned the lessons of history and never gone to Afghanistan to begin with. But the fact is we did go there. We tried to bring massive change to a country, made a mess of it and then simply left.

For the sake of the world, America should clean up the mess we made. For the sake of the Afghan people, America should finish what we started.

Categories: Contributed, Opinion