Throughout the year 2013, America's footprint in Afghanistan will continue to shrink until it is no more than a slight disturbance of the accumulated dust of generations of foreign occupation. America will become another footnote in the annals of countries that were arrogant enough to think that they, by virtue of their might, their money or their democratic lifestyle could change the country and its people.
The only question remaining and it is a question that has surely been pondered by all the occupying nations that preceded America is, "what happens now?"
Afghanistan is an old country populated by an old people as rich and as diversified as any country in the world. It is a country that has survived much and in doing so has drawn on ancient wisdom, the strength of its people and pure will. One would think a simple perusal of the historic record of the country would provide an indication as to how it will reshape itself in a post-America environment, but this would be much too simplistic. The only thing strategists can do is consider the 'known' and factor this in to predictions.
We know for instance that Afghanistan will lose approximately 80% of its present budget as America and many of its allies reduce their foreign aid contributions. We can calculate the number of jobs provided to the local populace by virtue of an American presence that will cease to exist. We can calculate the amount of rent payment America and its allies have paid to Afghan landlords for the past ten years that will cease. And though this is debatable, we can assume that a corrupt government will be unable to fill a void in people's lives, left by the absence of some semblance of control resulting from a physical American presence.
An American hope all along was that when we left, Karzai's government would have evolved and stabilized to the point that it instilled faith and confidence in the Afghan people. Another debatable point, but conversations with Afghan citizens from all walks of life will add weight to the assumption that nothing could be further from the truth. The level of corruption in government and theft of Afghanistan's assets is perceived by the populace to have become uncontrollable and this perception has virtually ruled out in the minds of these same people any concept of a stable democratic government.
The desire for stability however is just as strong in the hearts of the typical non-combative Afghan as it is in the heart of any American. I say non-combative because stability is least desired by those who seek to gain power in this country. The Taliban has for years done all in its power to create chaos and to destroy any semblance of stability, for such stability is exactly what they offer to a post-American coalition-occupied Afghan people. The stability they offer however comes with a price. Such stability under Taliban rule will be governed by sharia law but it is, in the mind of the typical Afghan worker, just that; stability; A stability that is so heartily sought by the people and much of the poorer population that they are willing to pay the price.
American withdrawal will most assuredly create a void. Most analysts and many Afghan military commanders fear that this void will not be filled by the Afghan...