What’s the point of garrisoning for 20 years?

  I went to Afghanistan twice, once in December 2010 and the other at the end of 2011. Looking back, that was the most tense period of this protracted war. At that time, I was preparing to collect materials for the new book, and I also had many questions in my mind that I wanted to solve. For many people, including me, this war is unfamiliar and remote, but it started like this, and it lasted ten years in a flash. Whether we like it or not, we Italians also participated and sent out 3,000 soldiers. At the time, the war showed no signs of ending.
  But now, it really ended, but in the most unfortunate way.
  There is also a narrow and dangerous outpost in Gulistan at the Herat base. I talked a lot with the Italian soldiers stationed there. I really want to know, in their eyes, what is the reason for our existence there, and what is the goal of the mission. I got a variety of answers, such as: “This is our job.” “We want to liberate the people of Afghanistan.” “Have you seen how the Taliban treat women do?” “I do not know, we’re just here.”.
  In On the flat desert, the Gulistan outpost hidden behind a sandbag seemed to confirm the illusion of these words. The boundaries of the “safe zone” are blurred and invisible, and the enemy is also invisible. Everything was smudged with a layer of milky white, elusive. This is the real desert of the Middle East.
  I remember that during the second trip, the weather was extremely bad, the helicopter was grounded, and I was trapped in Herat. During that time, I happened to catch up with the visit organized by the Press Office of the General Staff, and I was able to take a more intuitive look at the “results” that Italy has achieved there.
  According to the report, the mission of the Italian reconstruction team ended in 2014, with more than 1,200 projects, including schools, hospitals, prisons and wells. But Italy’s most important task, and also the most important goal of the International Security Assistance Force, is to train the Afghan armed forces and enhance their professional capabilities.
  However, many people discovered at that time: the trained soldiers seemed to be trapped by something and were always out of state; they held rifles in their hands, and their movements were filled with distrust. Inside our garrison, there are also jokes and anecdotes about the inefficiency of the local armed forces. And behind these words, there is a deep disappointment. For anyone who has watched their training, the lightning rout against the Taliban is not at all surprising, it will only be even more sad, because such a result is already doomed. But in 2010, the planned withdrawal time is 2014, because by then the Afghan army “may have completely controlled the security of the area.”
  After this “possible” prediction and my second visit to Afghanistan, another ten years have passed. During this period, the number of deaths of Western soldiers has been declining year by year, or even cleared to zero. This gives us the illusion that it is time for the end.
  We have been in Afghanistan for 20 years, which is enough for an era. For the Afghan children who grew up during this period, we Westerners exist to protect their lives. They have believed in this long-term guardian promise and believe that they can build their lives on this basis. Until we suddenly left, with a more vague excuse than before, we instantly withdrew the promise.
  The experience of writing war novels made me realize that many conflicts are inevitable, including armed conflicts. But with regard to the war in Afghanistan, I failed to dispel my doubts from beginning to end. How should we evaluate the rationality of a war? Is it to examine the reasons for the advancement of the war, to calculate the resulting violence, or to look at the ultimate success or failure?
  The last stop of the Herat visit was a local school open to women. It was late at the time and I felt very tired. For me at that time, the male soul and violence in the war were the focus of my exploration, and visiting the school did not help me much. I patiently walked through the corridors and classrooms of the school, looked at the student paintings on the walls, and had to listen to the principal’s detailed explanation. This is a waste of time, I thought. I didn’t take any photos, nor did I record a word.
  But since Herat was controlled by the Taliban, apart from this school, I can’t think of anything else in my mind. Is it closed? Or is it ruined? How are the students inside? The impatience at that time became the suffering I am now, because I didn’t know anything about this trivial and unstable project in my eyes. However, in today’s view, the true meaning of the war in Afghanistan may have to be found in the fate of this school.
  Americans, Americans are always deciding everything. But it is ourselves who made the promise and suddenly broke our promise