Leaving Afghanistan After Its Enormous Costs

Leaving Afghanistan After Its Enormous Costs
By JBS President John F. McManus

President Obama’s announcement that U.S. forces will be pulled out of Afghanistan must have stimulated many somber memories among the families and friends of the 2,300 Americans who died there and the 19,770 who brought home wounds. Same for British families whose losses included 1,100 dead along with a smaller number from Germany and Italy. The U.S. sent forces into this war-torn country in November 2001, only two months after the 9/11 terrorist attack. At the peak of our nation’s commitment, 100,000 were on duty and 32,000 remain today. It is the longest war ever fought by our nation’s forces.

The president’s new plan calls for withdrawing half of the 32,000 by the end of 2014, drawing down to 9,800 by the end of 2015, and removing all but enough to guard our embassy by the end of 2016. Why not bring all but the embassy detail home immediately is a question few seem willing to ask.

The Obama timetable will allow the president to keep his promise to end the war by the time he leaves office in January 2017. If that’s his goal, he deserves utter contempt for having a personal political goal while continuing to jeopardize the lives of those still on station. If, instead, national security interests form his motivation, the slow withdrawal makes no sense because whatever threat remains will still be there for several additional years. His announced plan also counters sound military doctrine which has always held that a combatant should never signal an exit date to his enemy.

Unaddressed by the president, members of Congress, and our nation’s media is the role NATO has played in the decision to withdraw. The overall direction of the military effort in Afghanistan has been the prerogative of NATO for many years, and NATO is a United Nations subsidiary. The UN Charter mandates that all actions taken by NATO must be cleared by the UN.

Will pulling out from Afghanistan lead to the same type of chaos that Iraq has experienced since troops were withdrawn from that nation? Will the plan to continue training Afghan forces during the next two years lead to more trainees turning on their trainers, with deadly results for our troops? Why do forces from America and other nations have to spend lives and treasure keeping peace among the Afghans who have long been mired in tribal or religious wars? Will the overall mission change again as it has so often during the past 13 years – from chasing Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda, to pacification of villages, to destroying poppy fields, to combatting the Taliban?

Immediately after 9/11, Congressman Ron Paul recommended that Congress use its constitutionally authorized power to issue letters of marque (seize) and reprisal (destroy) aimed at those who were responsible for the terrorist attacks. But President George W. Bush decided instead to go to war without the required congressional declaration of war – and Congress allowed him to proceed.

Now that the end of the Afghan tragedy is in sight, it would be comforting to see that those who arranged such a fiasco might be brought to account for what has long been a monumental tragedy.

To learn more about how terrorism is used as a tool to grow the federal government and the security state, visit our Terrorism issues page.



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