The United States in Afghanistan: How U.S. Foreign Policy in the “Graveyard of Empires” Paved the Road to the Present

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Southern New Hampshire University
Over the course of the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union competed for influence and allies. Afghanistan was initially viewed as unimportant to U.S. interests and ignored. This caused the Afghans to turn to the Soviet Union for aid, loans, and military assistance. The U.S. reversed course and invested money and resources into the Central Asian nation, but the influence of Soviet-style communism spread through Afghanistan. A Marxist coup led to the Afghan-Soviet War of 1979-89, which caused the U.S. to invest heavily in covert operations to support the rebel Mujahideen. This support dried up after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989, leading to the Afghan Civil War and the rise of the Taliban. Under the protection of the Taliban, Osama bin Laden and his terrorist organization, al Qaeda, planned and launched multiple attacks against the U.S. After the September 11 attack, the U.S. reentered Afghanistan and spent the next twenty years fighting a war in which it had little interest. The September 11 attacks changed life in the U.S., as well as around the world, forever. The issues faced today, including instability in the Middle East, an ever-widening gap between political ideologies, and the retrograde of rights and liberties can be traced back to U.S. policy concerning Afghanistan from 1955-2001. This paper analyzes the missteps, connects them to the current issues, and identifies future potential calamities that can still be avoided.