UPDATE: I wrote this post Sunday afternoon; since then, thousands of our readers have voted in the poll. The results are, I think, rather stunning. Nearly 74 percent agree with me that it is time to start getting out of Afghanistan. Given that our readers are probably about as hawkish a group as you will find, this would seem to have considerable significance for Republican Presidential candidates.
If you haven’t already voted in the poll, please do. Here is the original post:
I think it is. In the aftermath of September 11, we had no choice but to overthrow the Taliban, destroy al Qaeda’s training centers and kill and scatter as many al Qaeda and Taliban terrorists as possible. We did that, brilliantly. Bin Laden escaped by the skin of his teeth, but al Qaeda has never recovered from that initial devastation.
Since then, for going on nine years, we have pursued a somewhat half-hearted peacekeeping/democracy policy in Afghanistan. The Bush administration was right, I think, not to devote excessive resources to Afghanistan, which is virtually without strategic significance compared with countries like Iran, Iraq and Egypt. Moreover, the country’s human natural and human raw material could hardly be less promising.
Afghans are not just living in an earlier century; they are living in an earlier millenium. Their poverty, cultural backwardness and geographic isolation–roads verge on the nonexistent–are hard for us to fathom. They are a tribal society run by pederasts whose main industry is growing poppies. If our security hinges on turning this place into a reasonably modern, functioning country, we are in deep trouble. But I don’t think it does; and, in any event, I don’t think we can do it.
In large part, our effort in Afghanistan has been devoted to protecting normal Afghans against extremists like the Taliban. But, as the current rioting in Kandahar, Mazar-e Sharif and elsewhere reminds us, there there may not be a lot of daylight between the Taliban and more moderate Afghan factions.
President Obama doesn’t believe in our mission in Afghanistan. He has increased our commitment a little, following up on a campaign pledge that he made to avoid coming across to voters as a defeatist. (Weirdly, he doesn’t believe in his own venture in Libya either; he is already trying to scale back our involvement and reportedly has referred to it as a “turd sandwich.”) In this case, his instincts are right, and he should forget about his campaign posturing, which hardly anyone believed anyway, and follow them.
Is there a danger that if we leave, the Taliban will re-take control and, perhaps, invite al Qaeda or other terrorist groups to join them? Yes. However, it it not obvious that, after what happened in 2001, the Taliban will be quick to make its territory, once again, into a launching pad. If they do, one would hope that drones, bombs and perhaps the kind of small-scale insertion of troops that we mounted in 2001 will be an adequate response. In any event, when it comes to harboring terrorists, I am a lot more concerned about Pakistan than Afghanistan.
The war in Iraq is over, and has been for some time. Our mission there has been a success; how important a success depends not on us but on the Iraqis. For a predominantly Arab country, Iraq is doing well. At this point, we have done about all we can do. Our troops are no longer in a combat role, and we should bring them home, and honor their victory, on schedule.
There are new crises in the Middle East, and a bigger crisis than all the rest in Washington, where the Democrats are spending our children’s inheritance like there is no tomorrow. Hanging on in Afghanistan is not helping us to meet these more important challenges, and, while the war there represents a very small part of the federal budget, it is critically important to save where we can. The defense budget inevitably must take a hit, and Afghanistan is the best place for that ax to fall.
Our friend Pete Hegseth will soon deploy to Afghanistan, where he will be a leader in the effort to train Afghans to take over counter-insurgency responsibilities. We look forward to getting his first-hand reports; perhaps his observations will change my mind. But I doubt it. It appears to me that the time has come to disengage from Afghanistan.
What do you think?
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