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‘Afghanistanism’ went from old study topic to U. S. war disaster

By: Keith Kappes
Columnist
Carter County Times

It was nearly 60 years ago that I first heard someone use the term “Afghanistanism”. Dr. Lamar Bridges was teaching editorial writing at Marshall University, and I was trying to learn the skills of a journalist.

As he explained it, “Afghanistanism” was coined 20 years earlier to criticize the practice of certain reporters and editors of concentrating on problems in distant parts of the world while ignoring controversial local issues.

I recall that we had to do some research on that mountainous, landlocked country at the crossroads of South and Central Asia. That was long before the failed Soviet invasion of that tiny nation, the growth of the international opium trade and the initial emergence of the Taliban faction of Islamic extremists.

Dr. Bridges insisted that we learn to write local editorials and avoid wasting the time of our readers by writing about far-away matters that no one really cared about.

On our first day of class, he asked if any of us could find Afghanistan on a map. Out of about 25 students, no one knew exactly where it was or the name of the capital city, Kabul.

Today, nearly 20 years after U. S. soldiers began fighting and dying there, America is ending its longest war with almost 2,500 men and women killed in action. Many veterans of that conflict no doubt will always wonder if their sacrifices were worth the cost. 

Our nation spent billions of dollars trying to improve living conditions for the Afghans and to build warfighting capability in Afghan security forces. The weapons and equipment we provided are being displayed on international TV as the Taliban fighters march through each conquered town or village. 

From what we have seen thus far, it appears many of the Afghan soldiers have surrendered without a fight. American forces trained them and equipped them but apparently couldn’t motivate all of them to defend their own land.

Pulling out was a tough but correct decision for America. As I reflected on what has happened in Afghanistan, I found myself wishing that I, too, had never heard of that forlorn place.

Keith Kappes can be reached at keithkappes@gmail.com

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