By Kevin Rogers
Sunday’s allegations that an American serviceman killed 16 civilians in Afghanistan are the latest in a series of nightmares plaguing our presence in the nation. This is a tragedy, and if the allegations are true, those involved should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.
The recent developments in Afghanistan prompt us to ask a question: What are we still doing there?
After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the mission in Afghanistan seemed clear: destabilize the Taliban and hunt down Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. With these tasks completed to varying degrees of success, what is the mission now?
According to a Fox News article Monday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking on the alleged shooting spree, said, “This terrible incident does not change our steadfast dedication to protecting the Afghan people and to everything we can to help build a strong and stable Afghanistan.”
Clinton’s statement presents the problem with the mission in Afghanistan. We are no longer spending American lives and dollars to defeat an enemy; we are spending lives and dollars to build and uphold a government that may or may not support us in the future.
In October, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said, “God forbid, if there is ever a war between Pakistan and America, then we will side with Pakistan.” Though Karzai spoke theoretically, such a statement leaves us wondering if our investment in Afghanistan will pay off.
Not only is Karzai’s loyalty shifty; his government has been plagued by corruption. Both Karzai and President Obama have acknowledged this. Transparency International, a “global coalition against corruption,” recently ranked Afghanistan as the second-least-transparent nation in the world. Our efforts have resulted in a corrupt government that ultimately seems disloyal to U.S. interests.
In addition, the war has lost the support of the American people. According to an ABC News/Washington Post poll taken last week, 54 percent of Americans want to end the mission immediately, while 60 percent believe the war was not worth its cost. The poll, taken before Sunday’s alleged violence, demonstrates a clear fatigue among Americans with our presence in Afghanistan.
The sentiment shared by Americans also seems to be shared by the people of Afghanistan. According to a March 12 BBC article, members of the lower house of the Afghan parliament said Afghans are losing patience with foreign troops. Given the view of both Afghans and Americans, it is time to leave.
According to a Washington Post tally, 1,891 American soldiers have died in Afghanistan since 2001. That number will likely increase given the Taliban has pledged to take revenge for Sunday’s violence. A debt tally on costofwar.com said we’ve spent more than $500 billion dollars in Afghanistan since 2001.
Bin Laden is dead, the Taliban is destabilized and al-Qaeda is seriously weakened — these are victories to be celebrated. We can’t continue to shed American blood to prop up a weak, corrupt leader and his government.
The current plan for withdrawal is to draw down gradually and leave by the end of 2014. Such a plan puts needless lives at risk; we ought to leave as quickly as possible and not leave troops vulnerable with a slow withdrawal.
As for Karzai, if he wants a legitimate government, let him earn it himself. If he wants aid, let him weed out corruption in his government. We gave him the power to lead Afghanistan; let him lead it without our military.
It’s time to stop rebuilding Afghanistan. We need to focus on the best interests of our nation, stop spending precious blood and treasure and bring our troops home.