Saturday, March 17, 2012

Is it time to leave Afghanistan to the Afghans? Yes, it's long past time.

In a forceful commentary published by the National Review Online, Andrew C. McCarthy, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and author, most recently, of The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America, concludes that our war in Afghanistan is a waste of our time, a waste of our money and a waste of our soldiers.
"Our troops should be out of Afghanistan. Yesterday."

Over a March 4, 2009 Davis Enterprise column I wrote, my editor penned this familiar sounding headline:
"Get out of Afghanistan, now."

I suspect Mr. McCarthy would have agreed with my conclusion three years ago.

My criticism in 2009 was focused on the need for the war at all and the idea, which came to fruition, that we needed to expand our efforts in Afghanistan. McCarthy says much the same thing here about the decade long growth of this war:
... 90,000 American troops are now stationed (in Afghanistan), compared with the 5,200 who conclusively routed al-Qaeda a decade ago, which you may recall as the mission they were sent to accomplish.

McCarthy points out how unreliable, still, the people we are supposedly trying to help are:
... our “partners” have turned their guns on scores of our troops in the last five years, killing 70, wounding many more. Those are just the U.S. casualty figures. British forces and other NATO personnel are also being assassinated with regularity.

McCarthy likens our failed nation-building efforts in Afghanistan to the same efforts in Iraq, and he points out the price we have paid trying:
We were sold a “freedom agenda” bill of goods about creating a stable democracy that would be a reliable American counterterrorism ally (in Baghdad). What we actually purchased, at a cost of over 4,000 lives, over 30,000 wounded, and over $700 billion, is a sharia state beholden to Iran. The new Iraq calls for Arab solidarity against Israel amid pro-Hamas demonstrations. Its specialty is the persecution of Christians and homosexuals.

The great mistake of the entire Afghan War has been the change in our mission from destroying al-Qaeda to bringing freedom to the Afghan people:
We did not send our troops to liberate Afghanistan. We sent them to rout al-Qaeda, which they did with spectacular speed and effectiveness. There is nothing in the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) about liberating anyone.

In my 2009 column, I wrote much the same thing:
What we didn't need to do after our "victory" was engage in a nation-building exercise, trying to impose a democratic republic on a disparate collection of medieval clans who collectively are called Afghans, but have no national allegiance to that state.

In blunt language, McCarthy explains just why Afghans cannot be made into Danes:
In the main, the Afghans are Muslims in the thrall of Wahhabism, the fundamentalist Islam of Saudi Arabia. As such, they cannot be liberated — they have chosen their own tyranny.

What greatly angers Mr. McCarthy is that our war efforts in fighting against the Taliban are hampered by our efforts to not harm ordinary Afghans:
The only reason for our troops to be in a barbaric country is to vanquish the barbarians. Obviously, we are not trying to do that in Afghanistan.

If we leave Afghanistan, that does not mean we will give up fighting against al-Qaeda:
In Yemen, where there are no U.S. troops on the ground, Bill Roggio of the Long War Journal reports that our government killed dozens of al-Qaeda operatives by air strikes in just the last week. In Pakistan, where there are no U.S. troops on the ground, the Obama administration has stepped up the Bush-era pace of drone attacks, killing numerous jihadists. The name of the game with terrorists is to deny them safe haven to train and plot. As retired general Paul Vallely has been arguing for years, our troops have so damaged al-Qaeda at this point that, without committing massive ground forces in hostile Islamic countries, we can strike the enemy from “Lily Pads” — established land or seaborne bases in safe areas.

This is how I concluded my 2009 column:
We need to be prudent with our money and our soldiers. Pouring billions of dollars more into transforming Afghanistan and ceaselessly fighting the Taliban is a waste of lives, treasure and ultimately the Obama presidency. The time to get out is now.

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