Afghanistan: Time to Leave

“If you are the 4th-poorest country in the world, you have a long way to go. When you try to train an army, they have an 80% illiteracy rate… It’s gonna take a long time.”
Former White House Press Secretary Dana Perino, on Afghanistan.

We’ve been fighting in Afghanistan for seven years, five months, and six days, as of this writing. A child born the day the bombs first dropped is now reading books in school and playing basketball – or cricket. Seven is the Age of Reason, as my father told me at that age. It is the age at which a child can grasp the difference between wrong and right, and accept resposibility. When he can be accountable for his mistakes.

President Obama is making a mistake sending additional troops to this conflict.

Obama made a bold and honest declaration by stating the fact that America is not winning the war in Afghanistan, but the error in his pronouncement was its tone of hubris. The natural assumption for an American audience, as for any betting man throughout the world, is that America ought to be winning this war – and how! If spending more than the rest of the world combined on guns, planes, bombs and tankers can’t guarantee victory against a ragtag bunch of horse-riding mujahideen, then what can?

My first answer would be old-fashioned gumshoe spy shit, covert operations by men in trenchcoats and seductive women who elicit secrets out of foreign agents. Americans who can blend into other worlds, command languages, customs and connections, and have the full backing and support of Uncle Sam. We should be spending our money on training people to spend their whole lives overseas, protecting their country by feeding it information from the street corners of the world – but please, leave the F-15s parked out at sea.

Consider this: maybe we haven’t won in Afghanistan because it’s not winnable. Or perhaps it could be won after all, but the sheer massive destruction it would require is beyond the pale, even for men who understand that respect must be earned through the barrel of a gun.

It looks like we are trying to find out how long an operation as complicated and difficult as taming Afghanistan will take. Are we really prepared to take this ride?

It’s time to re-evaluate our goals there. Everybody was on board after the attacks of 9/11. Everybody wanted blood. But reason should have governed our actions, not emotion. Now we owe it to ourselves to consider what we really need to accomplish in Afghanistan, and leave out the pipe dreams.

Talking to the Taliban is a must, and a no-brainer. We are at a standstill, and the only options are negotiation or escalation. Obama is choosing escalation, but on a small scale. 17,000 more troops isn’t going to solve this thing. To pacify the country would require something an order of magnitude larger – hundreds of thousands of troops. Not to mention another decade of our time, trillions of dollars, and untold thousands of dead.

We went there to clear out the terrorists. Now that they’ve scattered, we should focus on getting out. Rounding up the rest of them is an international police and intelligence operation – not a military operation. We are spending billions of dollars trying to kill gnats with sledgehammers. This is a burden we simply must relieve ourselves of, for the sake of our children.