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Let's Withdraw from Afghanistan, and Learn the Hard Lessons

March 5, 2019 in Economics

By John Glaser

John Glaser

A new joint resolution introduced in the Senate calls
on the executive branch to withdraw all U.S. troops from
Afghanistan within one year. President Trump has already expressed
a desire to draw down, and with negotiations with the Taliban
showing promising signs, it seems America’s longest war is coming
to an end.

However, politics always lag substantially behind reality. While
polls show public support for withdrawal, much of
Washington opposes bringing the war to a close. Policymakers must
face some hard truths on Afghanistan.

Refusing to fight
unwinnable and unnecessary wars is the first step to not losing
them.

1. We lost.

The core of our nation-building mission in Afghanistan has
failed. We have not been able to pacify the Taliban insurgency, nor
have we created a viable democratic government that can maintain
order without external support. The Taliban now hold more territory, about half the
country’s districts, than at any point since 2001. Last year
marked the highest recorded number of civilian
deaths since 2009.

A recent Inspector General report found that the strength of the Afghanistan
security forces is at its lowest point since 2015, as it suffers
from desertions, depressed morale and low re-enlistment. An
astounding 45,000 Afghan police officers and soldiers have died
since 2014.

We have tried everything: light footprint, heavy footprint,
troop surges, regional cooperation, increased aid. Nothing has
brought us closer to our objectives. The Taliban will fight in
perpetuity until a full U.S. withdrawal and until they regain
political power in Kabul.

Americans don’t like to hear that they have lost a war.
During Vietnam, officials in Washington had acknowledged privately as early as 1965 that
most of the reason for keeping the war going was not to achieve our
objectives, which were basically lost, but to avoid the humiliation
of defeat. But extending that horrible war for years on this basis
was wrong. It’s time to simply face the hard truth: We lost.
Now, let’s cut our losses and leave.

2. The ‘terrorist safe haven’ is a
myth.

The security rationale for continuing to fight
this lost war is to prevent a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan from
being a sanctuary for terrorist groups. But Al Qaeda’s
presence Afghanistan in the lead-up to 9/11 did not have real operational utility in
enabling the terrorist group to perpetrate the attacks on New York
and Washington. The attacks were also planned from Germany and
Malaysia, and even the United States itself. In an age of instant
global communications, a territorial haven in remote, land-locked
Afghanistan isn’t much help to terrorist groups plotting to
attack …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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