After wrestling with my conservative inclinations I’ve come to the conclusion the U.S. needs to get out of Afghanistan—the sooner the better.
To date, War in Afghanistan casualties include some 2,162 Coalition personnel, including 1,342 U. S. service members who've given their lives in Afghanistan. They gave the ultimate sacrifice for what initially was a justifiable military response to 9/11 but what has since become a mish-mash of objectives few national leaders can articulate with clarity or passion.
Beginning October 7, 2001, just weeks after 9/11, the U.S. launched Operation Enduring Freedom. The goal? To find and capture or kill Osama bin Laden, the perceived leader responsible for 9/11, to destroy Al Qaeda, the terrorist group that sponsored 9/11 assassins, and to remove from power the Taliban regime that provided safe haven for bin Laden and Al Qaeda.
Within weeks the Taliban regime was deposed, Al Qaeda seemed to be on the run, and bin Laden had gone to ground. Now it’s nine years later and the situation in Afghanistan has not appreciably changed or improved. In fact, some would argue it’s worse.
It is true that the Taliban is no longer able to enact nationally its strict legal system and arbitrary punishments, including cruel and unusual ones in which people were executed publicly for a variety of religious offenses. It’s also true that bin Laden is no closer to being found and brought to justice.
At any given time civilian and military leaders in both the Bush and now Obama Administrations have communicated a vast array of convoluted, confusing, and at times conflicting objectives for the war effort. No one, even the President, can provide us with a clearly stated, brief “elevator speech” describing why we are there and what we are trying to do.
Nation-building, at first rejected by President Bush and his neoconservative staff, later emerged, sort of, as a goal for our engagement. Meanwhile, the U.S. has lost international credibility, continues to drain its economy, and cannot say when we’ll leave because we don’t know what it looks like to “win,” if indeed we’re trying to win.
Afghanistan is not Iraq in the sense that it is a country where tribal culture still persists. Consequently, a surge of troops will not necessarily result in less violence. Insurgency continues rooted in centuries of local politics.
In addition, the financial costs of the War in Afghanistan are staggering. We’re spending about $200 billion per year in direct and indirect costs. That’s $1 million per U.S. soldier or $3,947 per family of four per year, approximately $101 million per day.
It’s time to ask Why? Are we appreciably safer than we were five years ago? If the Taliban is now little more than a confederation of ill-equipped tribal groups and if NATO is willing to include Taliban leaders in peace talks, whom are we now trying to subdue? If, as many sources allege, bin Laden is in Pakistan, why are we fighting in Afghanistan? And none of these questions raise the specter of civilian collateral damage for which we are responsible, something we’re not willing to examine or admit.
The Soviets met their Waterloo in Afghanistan. I don’t want us to meet ours. President Obama won office largely on his claim he voted against the Iraq War and would end it if he were elected. Iraq was Bush’s war, so Obama could sling mud without fear of getting any on himself. Now, though, Afghanistan has become Obama’s war and he’s repeated many of Bush’s actions in Iraq.
Bringing U.S. troops home doesn’t equate with abandoning Afghanis to their fate. We’re involved financially now and could be involved in more targeted ways with financial aid in the future, at far less cost than we’re paying now.
It’s not that I’m against military action when it’s necessary and important. It’s that I’m weary of military action that has no goal. I think the majority of the American people feel the same way. We’ll fight when we need to and we’ll fight to win. But we don’t like to fight when we don’t know why we’re fighting.
For more on the Taliban, see James Fergusson's Taliban: The True Story of the World's Most Feared Guerrilla Fighters.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010
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