Leaving Afghanistan – Why Wait Until the End of the Year?
by JBS President John F. McManus
American troops went into Afghanistan in 2001 after the destruction of New York’s Twin Towers. Then, in 2003, U.S. forces reinvaded Iraq while the struggle in Afghanistan continued at a slower and more agonizing pace. The latest Afghanistan casualty figures note that, in more than 12 years, 4,410 have perished and close to 20,000 have been wounded. President Obama has decided to renege on his frequently uttered pledge to remove U.S. forces by the end of 2014. He is now seeking permission from Afghan leaders to keep 3,000 American military personnel in this faraway land.There is probably nothing more self-defeating for a military force than announcing the date of an intention to withdraw. Won’t the enemy simply wait until you’re gone and then ramp up its activity? No military man would sanction such a plan. This one was decided upon by politicians.
Even so, casualties continue and the men and women assigned to this war-torn country increasingly wonder why they are there. Their mission’s goal has been changed so often – from capturing Bin Laden, to destroying opium production, to pacifying villages, to opposing the Taliban, to resisting counterinsurgency, and more – that their heads must be spinning. Recent publication by angry veterans of this war discusses the incredible Rules of Engagement under which they were forced to operate. No more could they expect air support when attacked. No more could they shoot when threatened. The rules seem almost designed to get them killed.
Frequently, U.S. casualties occur at the hands of the nation’s military and police who have been trained by U.S. personnel. After arming and trusting these locals, some turn their guns on those who taught them how to use the very weapons given them. Also, only a week ago, Taliban forces killed 21 Afghan soldiers, their newest favorite targets who are accused of unwillingness to submit to strict Islamic rule. Meanwhile President Karzai, a frequent and sharp critic of the U.S. effort, now finds himself looked upon by ordinary Afghan citizens as a friend of the murderous Taliban. After all, say Afghans of their country’s president, he maintains an apologetic tolerance of the Taliban and even refers to them as his “brothers.”
American forces should be brought home, the sooner the better. There’s no other way. Let the Afghans fight each other without the U.S. acting as a referee, or as a target. No more dead and no more wounded. It is not the job of the U.S. to police the world. The policing that has been done hasn’t solved anything, either in Iraq where sectarian violence is almost worse than ever, or in Afghanistan.
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