What happens after U.S. leaves Afghanistan?
Idaho State Journal Editorial
A year from now the U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan are expected to be turning over control of the country to the Afghan government.
It’s a major step in the United States’ effort to pull itself out of the decade-long quagmire of a conflict that has resulted in the deaths of nearly 3,000 American troops and fatalities among the Afghans likely more than 10 times that number.
The question on everyone’s mind is what kind of legacy will this war — sparked by the 9/11 terrorist attacks — have on Afghanistan, a country known historically as the place where great empires go to die.
A recent news story might be foreboding as far as what kind of place Afghanistan will be once the U.S. military leaves—and it’s not encouraging.
The story revolves around the Dawood National Military Hospital in Kabul. Tens of millions of U.S. tax dollars have been pumped into the medical facility in hopes of making it a state-of-the-art complex staffed by highly trained Afghan doctors, nurses and other medial personnel.
But like many things in Afghanistan our best intentions were not enough.
The result of our attempt to create a modern hospital where Afghan soldiers and police could be treated for their wounds was a hellish nightmare.
Dawood, despite gobs of tax dollars and oversight and training by U.S. advisers, turned out to be a hospital taken straight from the script of a horror movie. The U.S. military’s own critique of Dawood painted a picture of a facility where patients regularly died of easily preventable infection and starvation. Yes, starvation. One wonders how there could be a food shortage considering the millions in U.S. tax dollars dumped into the hospital.
The truth is there was plenty of food, but the Afghans running and operating Dawood would not give their wounded patients a meal without the exchange of some bribe money.
The wounded Afghan soldiers and police were also denied medical treatment, even simple painkillers, unless they could bribe a doctor or nurse. Patients who had no bribe money and complained of the pain from their injuries were beaten by their Afghan caretakers.
The photos of conditions at the hospital look like something out of a Nazi concentration camp.
The U.S. military claims that following two Pentagon investigations conditions at the hospital are much better but the damage to the facility’s reputation might be irreversible, especially among Afghan soldiers and police — the very people it’s meant to serve. There’s also the matter of what happened to more than $40 million in U.S. tax dollars provided to the hospital. U.S. officials say the money is “missing” as in totally unaccounted for.
But what’s perhaps worse is that U.S. Army generals reportedly kept word of problems at the hospital from getting out in 2010 because of fears the news would hurt the Obama White House.
Congress is investigating this matter — which if true will only serve to further erode the credibility of our government in the eyes of both Afghans and Americans.
To think that high-ranking military officers might have decided to let the hellish conditions at the hospital continue for a few more months because they wanted the Democrats to do well in the mid-term elections is unconscionable, to put it politely.
If this hospital, meant to set the standard for medical care in Afghanistan, failed so miserably while under the watchful eyes of U.S. advisers, it’s terrifying to think what life will be like in Afghanistan once the U.S.-led coalition pulls out.
Like many other nations that have decided to occupy Afghanistan, the United States has learned that progress does not come easy and might never come at all.
The U.S. has given the Afghans every chance to succeed. Like what we encountered in South Vietnam, however, a country’s populace has got to want to improve their own plight.
No amount of U.S. tax dollars is enough to bring a better future to a land whose people hope to continue the status quo.