Recently, the topic of probable expansion of America’s 16-year-long war in Afghanistan surfaced in the media again. This hit the web in a close succession of related stories, yet the focus of the media recently has been practically gobbled up by the “Russia investigation” and scandalous Hollywood behavior. Perhaps it would be a welcome release from the current news cycle to review the history and current state of affairs of the war in Afghanistan.
Following 9/11, the Bush administration pledged to root out the proponents of international terrorism, an extremely popular move in a mourning nation. As a direct result, the administration took advantage of newly granted congressional powers to invade Afghanistan in late 2001. Despite some theatrical moves hinting at withdrawal over the Obama years, US troops have never left Afghanistan or concluded a peaceful settlement, and to this day they continue to fight and die on Afghani soil. Trump’s policy has expanded US involvement in Afghanistan, sending another 3000 troops to the Middle Eastern country on September 19th (Fox News). This results in an increase of US troops in Afghanistan of over 27%
One might justifiably ask why we maintain such a large military presence in Afghanistan if peaceful settlement seems to be unattainable after sixteen years of involvement. In fact, the objectives that would yield a peaceful settlement are so ill defined that forcing a peaceful settlement seems totally impossible. We simply do not know what we are fighting to accomplish. Our military engagement consists of ensuring the Taliban does not assume governance of Afghanistan, supposedly to ensure that a government supportive of terror against the United States does not rise. However, there is no strategic way to eliminate the Taliban. If we could have, after sixteen years, we would have. Overwhelming foreign force simply will not topple the ideologically driven Taliban. The only thing that will end the regime is an abandonment of the Taliban by local groups, something not likely to happen with foreign troops moving through areas, blowing things up, and killing natives.
Furthermore, a continued presence in Afghanistan jeopardizes US security on at least three fronts. Firstly, the lives of the US citizens we send as soldiers are put in danger every day. Secondly, it is a counter-productive drain on US defense resources. Finally, the fact that we make ourselves so hated to the populace of Afghanistan and the surrounding regions (the war has occasionally boiled over into Pakistan) increases the likelihood that young Middle Eastern men might take the idea into their heads to go out and kill Americans. Unlikely? How would the readers of this article react if China or Russia sent troops over to US soil to take control, even if the reason was “to protect us from neo-Nazis”?
Conservatives are characteristically the most disturbed about the recent milestone of 20 trillion dollars the national debt reached. They bemoan the financial irresponsibility of basing a government on debt. It ought, then, to appeal to their best fiscal senses when they discover that the war in Afghanistan has drained the Federal coffers of a trillion dollars on its own (Amadeo), totaling by itself 5% of the national debt. Some of my readers will undoubtedly have seen plans for balancing the budget in fifteen years and similar blueprints. Add an extra year, eliminate one war in Afghanistan, and not only have you balanced the budget; you have run a surplus big enough to take out 5% of the national debt. But hindsight is twenty-twenty.
America should take a hint from our history of failed involvement in Afghanistan and bring the troops home.
Fox News. “Trump to Unveil Afghanistan strategy in Pivotal Speech.” http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/08/21/trump-to-unveil-afghanistan-strategy-in-pivotal-speech.html
Amadeo, Kimberly. “Cost of Afghanistan War.” The Balance. https://www.thebalance.com/cost-of-afghanistan-war-timeline-economic-impact-4122493