The Afghan War: What is War For?

The Afghan War – what is it good for? The answer, referring to war in general, given in Edwin Starr’s 1970s song, is ‘absolutely nothing’. Not true.

The World Today Published 1 December 2001 Updated 26 October 2020 5 minute READ

Christopher Bellamy

Professor of Military Science and Doctrine, Cranfield University

War, unfortunately, is sometimes a necessary tool of politics, when a worse evil must be opposed, when all other options have failed or seem certain to do so. With the fall of Mazar e Sharif over the weekend of November 10-11 and of Kabul during the night of November 12, the Taliban regime was in retreat. American reaction indicated, however, that this rapid collapse was unexpected and in some quarters unwelcome. If such an outcome was not what Washington planned, it raises questions about the strategy of the war as a whole. 

For five weeks it was unclear how air attacks on Afghanistan were going to contribute directly to closing down the Al Qaeda terrorist network, with cells in scores of countries, and bring Osama Bin Laden – a Saudi, and an Arab, like most of his close associates – to justice. None of the September 11 hijackers, in contrast, was Afghan.

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