Back in 2001, the shock waves had barely abated from the horror of September 11th when George Bush announced his intent of invading Afghanistan to overthrow a regime openly committed to terror attacks on the West. The Taliban had gone from being the plucky rebels fighting the Communist hordes of Russia to being despotic overlords responsible for evil deed after evil deed.
But inspite of the propaganda, and whatever other agendas may have been pursued, it seemed at the time that the Taliban were something that the world should be concerned about. The people of Afghanistan, for whom survival has been an iffy proposition for the last twenty years, needed help badly. The country needed basic infrastructure rebuilt, educational facilities created, and some sort of hope for a better future.
It seemed like the perfect country to begin a sort of Marshall plan for the developing world. Where the original served to rebuild Western Europe in order to curb the spread of Communism, in Afghanistan hope for a better future would be the best deterrent against terrorism. Terrorist organizations don't just form overnight, or on the whim of one person.
Rather they require a generation of disaffected and despairing people, and opportunistic zealots who can give the masses something to live for. In the Cold War it was supposedly about economics and ideology; freeing the proletariat against free elections. Now it just feels like hatred in both directions and to hell with issues or causes.
But there are ways to make terrorism less attractive to the majority of people, just as there was a way to make Communism unattractive back in the 1940's. Give people hope for the future. Help them rebuild their houses, improve their irrigation systems so that their crops have a better chance of success, build roads so that their produce can get to markets. Instead of investing money in bombs to drop on them, invest in their industry so that jobs can be created. Show you care by investing in their people by rebuilding the local schools that had been destroyed.
Sure there will always be those who are dissatisfied, but they exist in every society – witness the bombing in Oklahoma City if you require any proof – but if we do our best we can at least remove popular support from their cause. Without grassroots popular support it becomes harder for groups like the Taliban to vanish into the villages of the backcountry because they won't be welcomed or supplied.