On Veterans Day, What We’re Leaving Behind

US Marine in Helmand Province / AP

Hundreds of thousands of American veterans have served in Afghanistan since 2001, and around 20,000 troops remain there today, though the number plummets daily with the abandonment of bases and the turnover of major installations to the Afghan government. By early next year, there will be only 9,800 American troops left in the country, a number that will be reduced by half no later than the end of 2015. According to the White House, it will be reduced again, effectively to zero, by the end of 2016.

So how are things going?

Last International Forces Airlifted from Key Base in Afghanistan

U.S. Marines are seen on board a helicopter at Kandahar air base upon the end of operations for the Marines and British combat troops in Helmand

KANDAHAR AIR FIELD Afghanistan (Reuters) – A fleet of planes and helicopters airlifted the last U.S. and British forces from a key base in southern Afghanistan on Monday, a day after the international coalition closed the massive facility and handed it over to the Afghan military.

The Poison Tree

Arab protesters wave Islamic flags in front of the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel / AP

Last month, addressing the U.N. General Assembly, Benjamin Netanyahu made a connection between the Islamic State and Hamas. These terrorist entities, Netanyahu said, have a lot in common. Separated by geography, they nonetheless share ideology and tactics and goals: Islamism, terrorism, the destruction of Israel, and the establishment of a global caliphate.

And yet, Netanyahu observed, the very nations now campaigning against the Islamic State treated Hamas like a legitimate combatant during last summer’s Israel-Gaza war. “They evidently don’t understand,” he said, “that ISIS and Hamas are branches of the same poisonous tree.”

Tribal Leaders and the Future of Afghanistan

APTOPIX Afghanistan Opium

Peter Tomsen, who once served as the U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and who published in 2011 what many consider to be the definitive book, thus far, about the war there, has a review in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs of three recent books on the same subject. The review and the books (War Comes to Garmser by Carter Malkasian, The Wrong Enemy by Carlotta Gall, and No Good Men Among the Living by Anand Gopal) are thoughtful works by deeply informed writers, and all are worth a read.

On the way to providing some interesting proposals for future international policy in Afghanistan, Tomsen considers the question of what has gone wrong thus far. His discussion of the most recent book—Gopal’s—is particularly interesting.

Afghan Poppy Cultivation at ‘All-Time High’

An Afghan farmer works on a poppy field in the Khogyani district of Jalalabad, east of Kabul, Afghanistan

Cultivation of the illegal poppy plant in Afghanistan has reached an “all time high” following a $7.6 billion counternarcotics campaign paid for by the United States, according to government oversight investigators.

Despite the spending to combat growth of the poppy plant, which is used to make drugs such as opium and heroin, cultivation has reached an “all time high,” especially in places once declared “poppy free,” according to new report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR).

Car Bomb Hits Foreign Convoy in Afghan Capital

Kabul, Afghanistan / Wikimedia Commons

KABUL (Reuters) – A suicide car bomber rammed a foreign convoy along a major road out of Afghanistan’s capital Kabul early on Monday, killing at least one person, authorities said.