As a liberal who supported Pres. Obama’s Afghanistan plan when he first began it, I simply do not understand how anyone can support it today, at least not when judging what’s in U.S. interests.
Nineteen months ago the president announced the surge strategy in hopes of stabilizing Afghanistan and strengthening its military and police forces. Today, despite vast investment in training and equipping Afghan forces, the country’s deep-seated instability, rampant corruption and, in some cases, compromised loyalties endure. Extending our commitment of combat troops will not remedy that situation.
Sometimes our national security warrants extreme sacrifices, and our troops are prepared to make them when asked. In this case, however, there is little reason to believe that the continuing commitment of tens of thousands of troops on a sprawling nation-building mission in Afghanistan will make America safer.
National security experts, including the former C.I.A. director Leon E. Panetta, have noted that Al Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan has been greatly diminished. Today there are probably fewer than 100 low-level Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan. Al Qaeda has a much larger presence in a number of other nations.
Our focus shouldn’t be establishing new institutions in Afghanistan, but concentrating on terrorist organizations with global reach. And our military and intelligence organizations have proved repeatedly that they can take the fight to the terrorists without a huge military footprint.
It’s easy to understand why our troops being in Afghanistan is good for the Afghans, because Pres. Karzai simply isn’t doing his job and there’s no evidence he will. Women continue to suffer in Afghanistan, an issue to which Karzai is indifferent, even as real progress has been made, because the women and girls had only one way to go and that’s up.
In the past, I’ve argued with people over staying in Afghanistan, but after herculean efforts on the part of our troops, it’s simply not worth one more life, not one. I feel the same way about Iraq, too, but I felt that way from the beginning the Bush-Cheney misadventure that distracted the U.S. from getting bin Laden.
It’s also not as if we won’t continue to be involved in Afghanistan, because they’re sitting next to Pakistan in an important region. This begs the question of when regional powers, including India, China and Russia, will start doing their part? The U.S. is leaving Afghanistan, so they’d better step up.
Senators Merkeley and Udall are correct, Pres. Obama should change course, but he won’t because he’s prosecuting this war like a Republican, which is one reason why Afghanistan is starting to look like a bigger disaster than ever, because the same stubbornness that kept Bush in Iraq is keeping Obama from drawing down faster in Afghanistan.