the Times has come to the decision that the US should get out of
Afghanistan ASAP. From the editorial:
"This conclusion represents a change on our part. The war in Afghanistan
had powerful support at the outset, including ours, after the attacks of
Sept. 11, 2001."
Yep, the NYT was part of the 89% of This country that supported our
invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, with only 9% of us thinking it a
mistake at the time. What we got in return was chasing bin Laden and
most of Al Qaeda into Pakistan, where numerous terrorist attacks were
planned over the last 11 years. More to the point, we also killed more
innocent Afghan civilians by March of 2002 than Al Qaeda killed on 911,
and innocent Afghans are still dying from US actions.
Biden in the debate the other night said:
“We are leaving [Afghanistan] in 2014. Period.”
As pointed out by the Washington Post's fact checker and and is also
mentioned in the editorial, this is absolute bullshit. From the Post:
"Actually, the administration has long discussed having an “enduring
presence” of 10,000 to 15,000 troops, mainly as advisers who would
reside on military bases. An agreement must still be reached with the
government of Afghanistan."
Seems Obama can't just leave anywhere without an American troop presence
if he can help it. Gotta remember that he tried for several months last
year to leave a few thousand troops in Iraq, those negotiations fell
apart when Obama wouldn't agree to allow Iraq the right to prosecute
American soldiers for any crimes they committed against Iraqis.
Anyhow, the Times makes a powerful case for their view, I'm posting it
in full below. Amazing how Afghanistan is a non issue this election year.
For those who don't read this, one more point from the Times:
"Some experts say a secure withdrawal would take at least six months,
and possibly a year. But one year is a huge improvement over two. It
would be one less year of having soldiers die or come home with wounds
that are terrifying, physically and mentally."
Bring them all home. Soon.
Time to Pack Up
Published: October 13, 2012
After more than a decade of having American blood spilled in
Afghanistan, with nearly six years lost to President George W. Bush’s
disastrous indifference, it is time for United States forces to leave
Afghanistan on a schedule dictated only by the security of the troops.
It should not take more than a year. The United States will not achieve
even President Obama’s narrowing goals, and prolonging the war will only
do more harm.
Vice President Joseph Biden Jr. said on Friday that “we are leaving
Afghanistan in 2014, period. There is no ifs, ands or buts.” Mr. Obama
indicated earlier that this could mean the end of 2014. Either way, two
more years of combat, two more years of sending the 1 percent of
Americans serving in uniform to die and be wounded, is too long.
Administration officials say they will not consider a secure “logistical
withdrawal,” but they offer no hope of achieving broad governance and
security goals. And the only final mission we know of, to provide
security for a 2014 Afghan election, seems dubious at best and more
likely will only lend American approval to a thoroughly corrupt
This conclusion represents a change on our part. The war in Afghanistan
had powerful support at the outset, including ours, after the attacks of
Sept. 11, 2001.
After Mr. Bush’s years of neglect, we believed that a new president,
Barack Obama, was doing the right thing by at least making an effort. He
set goals that made sense: first, a counterinsurgency campaign,
stepped-up attacks on Al Qaeda, then an attempt to demolish the
Taliban’s military power, promote democratic governance in Kabul and
build an Afghan Army capable of exerting control over the country.
But it is now clear that if there ever was a chance of “victory” in
Afghanistan, it evaporated when American troops went off to fight the
pointless war in Iraq. While some progress has been made, the idea of
fully realizing broader democratic and security aims simply grows more
elusive. Meanwhile, more than 2,000 American troops have died in this
war, more than 50 of them recently in growing attacks by Afghan forces,
and many thousands more have been maimed. The war has now cost upward of
Representative Paul Ryan, the Republican vice-presidential nominee, said
at the debate on Thursday: “We don’t want to lose the gains we’ve
gotten. We want to make sure that the Taliban doesn’t come back in.”
More fighting will not consolidate the modest gains made by this war,
and there seems little chance of guaranteeing that the Taliban do not
“come back in,” at least in the provinces where they have never truly
been dislodged. Last month, militants struck a heavily fortified NATO
base. Officials say the Pakistan-based Haqqani network is behind many of
the attacks on Americans.
Americans are desperate to see the war end and the 68,000 remaining
troops come home. President Obama has not tasked military commanders
with recommending a pace for the withdrawal until after the election. He
and the coalition partners have committed to remain engaged in
Afghanistan after 2014 at reduced levels, which could involve 15,000 or
more American troops to carry out specialized training and special
operations. Mr. Obama, or Mitt Romney if he wins, will have a hard time
convincing Americans that makes sense — let alone Afghans. The military
may yet ask for tens of thousands more troops, which would be a serious
To increase the odds for a more manageable transition and avert an
economic collapse, the United States and other major donors have pledged
$16 billion in economic aid through 2015. That is a commitment worth
keeping, but the United States and its allies have tried nation building
in Afghanistan, at least for the last four years. It is not working.
The task is to pack up without leaving behind arms that terrorists want
and cannot easily find elsewhere (like Stinger missiles) or high-tech
equipment (like Predator drones) that can be reverse engineered by
Pakistan or other potential foes. The military can blow those things up
if it must.
It is hard to be exact about a timetable since the Pentagon and NATO
refuse to discuss it. The secretary of defense, Leon Panetta, told us
last week that decisions about the timetable would be made after the
military command reported to Mr. Obama in December. He would not say
much of anything beyond that — whether the withdrawal would be
front-loaded, or back-loaded, or how many troops would be needed to
secure the election.
Some experts say a secure withdrawal would take at least six months, and
possibly a year. But one year is a huge improvement over two. It would
be one less year of having soldiers die or come home with wounds that
are terrifying, physically and mentally.
Suicides among veterans and those in active service reached unacceptable
levels long ago. A recent article by The Associated Press quoted studies
estimating that 45 percent of returning veterans from Iraq and
Afghanistan are claiming disability benefits. A quarter ofthose veterans
— 300,000 to 400,000, depending on the study — say they suffer from some
form of post-traumatic stress disorder. This is far too high a price to
go on asking of troops and their families.
Four years ago, Mr. Obama called Afghanistan a “war we have to win.” His
strategy relied on a newly trained Afghan Army and police force that
could take over fighting the Taliban; a government competent to deliver
basic services; and Pakistan’s cooperation. Here is what happened:
AFGHAN SECURITY FORCES NATO and the Pentagon built an Afghan Army and
police force of nearly 352,000 that is now nominally in the lead for
providing security in most of the country. Attrition rates are high and
morale is low; the attacks on coalition forces have eroded trust and
slowed the training. Afghan leaders have to work harder with Washington
to weed out corrupt troops and Taliban infiltrators, but the nation
cannot hang its hopes on that happening.
There is an agreement to finance the army to 2017 with Kabul paying $500
million, Washington about $2.5 billion and other donors about $1.3
billion. If Kabul keeps its commitments, the donors should make good on
The Taliban have not retaken territory they lost to coalition forces,
but Kandahar and Helmand Provinces, the Taliban base and the main focus
of the 2010 surge, remain heavily contested. A Pentagon report in May
said Taliban attacks in Kandahar from last October through March rose by
13 percent over the same period a year earlier.
William Byrd, an Afghan expert at the United States Institute of Peace,
said, “The most that probably can be hoped” is that the army continues
to hold Kabul and other major cities. It is not likely to ever become an
effective counterinsurgency force.
EFFECTIVE, CREDIBLE GOVERNANCE President Hamid Karzai’s weak and corrupt
government, awash in billions of dollars, continues to alienate Afghans
and make the Taliban an attractive alternative. Mr. Karzai recently
chose Asadullah Khalid, a man accused of torture and drug trafficking,
to take over the country’s main intelligence agency. Dozens of Karzai
family members and allies have taken government jobs, pursued business
interests or worked as contractors to the United States government.
A recent report by Afghanistan’s central bank said the Afghan political
elite had been using Kabul Bank as a piggy bank. In 2010, word that the
bank had lost $300 million caused a panic, and the number later tripled.
To win pledges of continued aid at an international donors conference in
July, President Karzai promised to crack down on corruption and make
political reforms, but he has done little. The aid sustaining his
government is at risk if he fails. We doubt that he will exercise real
leadership. For now, he has proved himself to be not only unreliable,
but a force undermining American goals and Afghans’ interests.
In 2009 and 2010, Mr. Karzai’s supporters tried to defraud the national
elections. With elections scheduled for 2014, the question is whether
Mr. Karzai will keep his vow to abide by the Constitution and leave when
his term is up. He needs to make sure the Parliament and the government
put in place an electoral system that encourages competent candidates to
run and enables a broadly accepted election with international monitors.
All sides are lagging. (There has been even less progress in restoring
local governance, the bedrock of Afghan society, where the Taliban exert
Mr. Obama wants to use American troops to provide logistical assistance
and security at the elections. There were real threats to voters’ lives
in the first post-Taliban elections, but the real threat to democracy is
from corruption, not bombs. Mr. Karzai stole the last election, and he
got away with it with American forces in place. After giving him 10
years and lots of money, things keep going in the wrong direction. Why
would this now change?
RELATIONS WITH PAKISTAN After some bitter disputes, Pakistan began
cooperating with the United States again in June by reopening a critical
supply route to Afghanistan. American officials say the Pakistanis may
have decided that sowing chaos in Afghanistan by supporting Taliban
proxies is not in their interest after all. This could be wishful
thinking. Last week, the Pentagon blamed the Pakistani-backed Haqqani
network for some of the recent “green on blue” attacks. Islamabad’s
collusion with the Taliban and other extremist groups is the biggest
threat to Afghan stability.
The United States has a huge interest in a less destructive Pakistan, a
nuclear-armed country of 170 million that supports jihad in Afghanistan,
Kashmir and Indian cities. But there is reason to argue that America’s
leverage with Pakistan on security matters is limited by its need for
Pakistani bases, border crossings and intelligence on the Taliban.
If tens of thousands of American troops were removed from landlocked
Afghanistan, that might actually allow the United States to hang tougher
with Islamabad. Pakistan officials might not listen, but at least the
United States could be more honest about what the Pakistanis were doing
to worsen the threat of terrorism and insurgency.
We are not arguing that everything will work out well after the United
States leaves Afghanistan. It will not. The Taliban will take over parts
of the Pashtun south, where they will brutalize women and trample their
rights. Warlords will go on stealing. Afghanistan will still be the
world’s second-poorest country. Al Qaeda may make inroads, but since
9/11 it has established itself in Yemen and many other countries.
America’s global interests suffer when it is mired in unwinnable wars in
distant regions. Dwight Eisenhower helped the country’s position in the
world by leaving Korea; Richard Nixon by leaving Vietnam; President
Obama by leaving Iraq.
None of these places became Jeffersonian democracies. But the United
States was better off for leaving. Post-American Afghanistan is likely
to be more presentable than North Korea, less presentable than Iraq and
perhaps about the same as Vietnam. But it fits the same pattern of
damaging stalemate. We need to exit as soon as we safely can.