Contrary to popular misconceptions, the intervention of Western countries in Afghanistan, though ended in their hasty escape, was a success, in counterterrorism as well as in social terms.
Thanks to their control of Afghanistan, for 20 years al Qaeda was deprived of a base where it could have trained terrorists and prepared attacks on the US and Europe; The human losses and financial costs of the Western presence in Afghanistan have been relatively small in recent years.
20 years without the Taliban has changed the lives of Afghans for the better. Young women have benefited the most from the improved situation, giving birth to fewer children, being able to get an education and working in all kinds of professions. Hundreds of thousands of women and children have been saved from death by much improved medical care, available almost anywhere in the country.
But Western public opinion was unaware neither of the real achievements nor of the real costs. Public support for withdrawal from Afghanistan was based on a one-sided picture of the situation presented in the media and by politicians. The public lived under the impression that the great military and financial commitment of 10 years ago was still going, and that hundreds of soldiers were dying in battles with the Taliban. That perception that was completely false.
Three conclusions about future such interventions emerge from this analysis:
- the need to provide balanced information to the public through the establishment of a strategic communication center to provide current, multifaceted information, since modern wars are won not only on the battlefield but mostly in the battle for public opinion;
- the need to abandon unrealistic goals of building democracy in few years in a country lacking democratic traditions and putting emphasis on fighting corruption and respecting human rights instead; democracy cannot be successfully created in few years, while corruption can be reduced in that timeframe, improving the effectiveness of governance and ensuring the support of the population;
- the growing need to create a special European armed force capable of intervening autonomously in places of European Union’s vital interests, without depending on arbitrary decisions by American presidents; such a force would strengthen