Afghanistan is known as the graveyard of empires, and like a Shakespearean tragedy, tells the story of contending political and ideological groups whose internal goals time and again serve only to destroy the innocent people around them. American interventions have stressed the destruction of terrorists’ footholds while supporting symbolic touchstones of burgeoning democracy and diminishing drug industries. The core oft stated goal for the U.S. is to ensure that the terrorist groups lack the security and power to launch attacks on it, yet the tools employed by the US have failed to adequately address the dispersed power structure in Afghanistan. As result, American efforts have not taken root in a long-term sustainable way. Unending internal divisions, lack of physical security, and a dearth of economic opportunities all serve to promote an environment throughout Afghanistan in which disparate terrorist groups rather than a unified western-style democracy thrive. This paper aims to demonstrate how the psychological and economic impact of the two primary terrorist groups have taken root in Afghanistan and must be taken into account in order to create a plan to successfully diminish their power. Looking closely at one province in the country will exemplify those issues. By understanding the foothold of both groups more clearly, strategies to weaken either or both and simultaneously improve human security might be possible.
The popular narrative through which the U.S. views the conflict in Afghanistan has led to fundamental miscalculations. Sociologist Jim Kuypers clarified the idea of framing analysis in the social sciences, clarifying that “Frames are so powerful because they induce us to filter our perceptions of the world in particular ways… They operate by making some information more salient than other information; therefore, they ‘highlight some features of reality while omitting others.” The War on Terror in Afghanistan, as framed by the U.S. and other Western powers has often focused on the lack of democratic civil society touchstones, while in reality the splintered governance and historical persistence of that dispersed power structure, combined with the lack of economic opportunity and physical security, are the most crucial elements to address in any successful plan to weaken the terrorists networks. Rather than focus on solely on democratic structures such as free elections, any plan with a chance of success needs to be created with a deep understanding of the “on the ground” environment that has allowed various militant groups to thrive.