It's about the size of Texas, and its average annual temperature is like that of Massachusetts. Its capital city is on the same latitude as Los Angeles and Memphis. Humans have been scrambling over, fighting for, and surviving in this place, Afghanistan, for 50,000 years.
In 330 BC, Alexander The Great marched and fought the width of Afghanistan and reached Samarkand through the Khawak Pass. He led his starving army over the 12,000 foot snowy pass and then west, back through the Khyber Pass, on the modern Hippie Trail all the way to Kabul. Today Taliban and tribal fighters use the same passes (there are seven) for the purpose of fighting NATO and American troops. The blood of thousands, maybe millions, of nameless soldiers and unaffiliated warriors has been spilled here since the first Aryans arrived 5000 years ago.
Afghanistan was Hellenized by the Macedonians and their successors, converted to Buddhism by adherents from India, ignored militarily by the Romans, conquered and converted by Muslims, trampled by Genghis Khan and Tamerlane, by Darius and other Persians and Parthians; invaded by Turkic tribes, by the British, the Russians and Americans. Even with constant, low grade warfare, it was also the world's first mobile shopping mall with its web of trade routes called The Silk Road, the commercial paths taken by bearers of luxury goods from the east to the Mediterranean world.
Julius Caesar's silk curtains came through Afghanistan from China, over barren trails prowled today by American Rangers and Special Forces. The Romans believed that silk grew on trees. They never learned differently, because they weren't welcome in Afghanistan, where The Silk Road was controlled by Parthians and Afghan Kushans, or welcome farther to the east, in China.
Among the six countries that share a border with Afghanistan is China. It lies at the end of a 150-mile long, 10-mile wide tendril of rock and valley known as the Wakhan Corridor. Marco Polo came through here 800 years ago to travel this portion of The Silk Road. Today it's the haunt of drug smugglers and the Marco Polo sheep.
The only European connection in Afghanistan is its mountain range, the Hindu Kush, which is a Himalayan extension of the European Alpine system which runs into North Africa. There are, of course, Western "interests" there today. I don't know if they're realistic. I've asked one of my sons, who served there in a combat role, if he thought our mission was do-able. He said "No". The soldier's opinion isn't always on the mark, and he didn't say we should just walk away. But we need a policy that doesn't include indifference.