December 7th, 2009
06:45 AM ET

Is Afghanistan really a 'graveyard of empires?'

Known as the "graveyard of empires," Afghanistan has a reputation for undoing ambitious military ventures and humiliating would-be conquerors, a fate U.S.  President Obama's opponents at home say is not worth risking more American lives for.

In the past two centuries, both Soviet and British invaders have been forced to beat bloody retreats from Afghanistan, deprived of victories that, on paper, looked easy, but ultimately proved futile.

This, say some, is the inevitable Afghan experience. Isolated, poverty-stricken and brutalized by interminable conflict that technological advances in warfare fail to end, the country apparently remains as impervious to today's military adventurers as it was to yesterday's.

Read more from's Barry Neild

soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. Tony

    I think that it is not a matter of military technology against primitive stuff, but to understand the culture behind the people.

    With bullets you can kill people, not thoughts.

    December 7, 2009 at 6:55 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Jasmine

    Why can't our troop put in place( Robot) to help them in Afghanistan? IT WILL HELP SAVE A LOT OF LIVES!

    December 7, 2009 at 6:31 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Tim


    How s Islam a political threat? The US enjoys the separation of church and state. This is an issue of some fanatical groups hating the west because they have been around much longer and have accomplished much less. They also view property ownership much different and despise our wealth. Basicaly they are looking for a place to point the blame for their lack of internal cooperation and loss of wealth because of that. Lets face it, other than the oil, what does the majority of the region have to offer?

    December 7, 2009 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Tim


    First of all we arnt talking about 3-4 Al Queda. We are talking thousands that are well trained and well funded with opium money. Al Queda have gotten the locals support because they are fear mongers. It is tough for us to persuade a people that our way is a better life when 1/3 of them have never seen electricity. The concepts just arnt there. Plus, the longer we maintain a presence in the neighborhood. The easier it will be to launch an offensive against a close, non abidding nuclear neighbor.

    December 7, 2009 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Ryan

    The U.S. clearly views Islam as a political threat, just as it did Communism in the 20th Century.

    You have a region drowning in oil and a resurgent political ideology (Islamism) that defies Western influence in the region, so you attack key, strategic countries in order to kill Islamic politics in the Middle East and elsewhere.

    It's not about national security, it's about hegemony. That's it.

    December 7, 2009 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Maven

    @Tim: Or, we could just stop bombing them and leave them alone to tend to their own affairs. That also tends to be a good solution, but since it doesn't involve blowing things up, it's one Americans rarely embrace. The fact is that Afghanistan had very little to do with 9/11. They just happened to be the place where Al Queda set up camp during 2000-2001. Bin Laden is a Saudi, as were most of the 9/11 Terrorists. So basically, we've been stuck in two unwinnable wars for almost a decade now, because a group of Saudis attacked us. But we can't attack Saudi Arabia, because that's where our oil comes from. So we attacked one country that had NOTHING to do with the attacks, (Iraq) and one country that just happened to be where a few Al Queda terrorists camped out for a while.

    December 7, 2009 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
  7. steven harnack

    The problem as I see it is that no matter who rules in Kabul it is pretty nigh impossible to project that power throughout the whole country. Isolation makes each remote valley or group of valleys its own kingdom.They are going to fight anyone violating their territory.The only time these little kingdoms cooperate is when there is a non-afghani invader and even then alliances are made and broken constantly. I don't claim to have the solution but I do know it will have to be an Afghani solution, not one based on western attitudes. Just one example, what we call corruption is the way they have done business for thousands of years.They see things from their cultural perspective and that is not going to change in 5-10 years.It will be difficult to watch but sooner or later they are going to have to sort things out between themselves, like the Vietnamese did.

    December 7, 2009 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Tim

    The radical countries will not settle until someone truely occupies it for a long enough time that the current mindset is bred out. Brokering with warlords and trying to pin one fanatic against another is only prolonging the bloodshed for our soldiers and the current uninvolved residents of these places.

    December 7, 2009 at 10:12 am | Report abuse |