Small Wars Journal

Afghanistan War Enters 18th Year

Afghanistan War Enters 18th Year by Phillip Walter Wellman - Stars & Stripes Timeline

Sunday marks 17 years of the war in Afghanistan.

As the 18th year begins, Stars and Stripes has recapped key points throughout the war, which has spanned the terms of three presidents. Combat veterans now serve with their sons and daughters, some of whom were too young to remember 9/11.

Continue on for a timeline of key events in the war.


For the Afghans, the current "long war" would seem to be of longer duration. 

This, given that the Afghans -- first, from approximately 1979 to 1989 -- and next from 2001 to the present day -- would seem to be fighting against:

a.  Two invading great powers (first the Soviets/the communists, then the U.S./the West); both of whom were/are:

b.  Driven by "utopian visions." And both of whom were/are:

c.  Willing to use military force in the pursuit of same.

In support of this such suggestion, consider:

a.  First, from Hans Morgenthau's 1967 essay "To Intervene or Not to Intervene:"

"The United States and the Soviet Union face each other not only as two great powers which in the traditional ways compete for advantage. They also face each other as the fountainheads of two hostile and incompatible ideologies, systems of government and ways of life, each trying to expand the reach of its respective political values and institutions and to prevent the expansion of the other. Thus the cold war has not only been a conflict between two world powers but also a contest between two secular religions. And like the religious wars of the seventeenth century, the war between communism and democracy does not respect national boundaries. It finds enemies and allies in all countries, opposing the one and supporting the other regardless of the niceties of international law. Here is the dynamic force which has led the two superpowers to intervene all over the globe, sometimes surreptitiously, sometimes openly, sometimes with the accepted methods of diplomatic pressure and propaganda, sometimes with the frowned-upon instruments of covert subversion and open force."

b.  Next, consider the following from an Afghanistan anti-government tribal leader -- who seems to be comparing the Soviets/the communists earlier pursuit of their "utopian vision" -- and their willingness to use military force in the pursuit of same -- this, with the U.S./the West similar efforts in Afghanistan currently:

"Today, like 20 years ago a government and its international allies are trying to impose a model of society, with all the modernization, reconstruction, development and Western values that go with it. Today, like 20 years ago, I disagree and we all shed blood. ..."

Bottom Line Thought -- Based on the Above:

Thus for the Afghans -- and here re: the battle against (a) great powers (b) pursuing "utopian visions" and (c) willing to use military force in the pursuit of same -- the war has entered, shall we say, its 28th year? 

(1979 - 1989 versus the "utopian-driven" Soviets/the communists; and 2001 - 2018 versus the similarly "utopian-driven" U.S./the West?)

(Should we still wonder whether America had/has a "utopian vision" -- one which plays such an important role in Afghanistan and, indeed, elsewhere throughout much of the world -- we might wish consider the following:

"Trump calls himself a 'realist,' and the critics also insist on a new 'realism,' a Trumpian pulling back from decades-old alliances that they believe have outlived their usefulness. They might not strike quite the same 'America First' themes Trump struck during this week’s address to the U.N. General Assembly. But the realism they have in mind is much the same. They would have us abandon what they regard as the utopian ambitions of remaking the world in America’s image and instead urge us to accept the world 'as it is,' to use the Obama administration’s favorite mantra." )