Nearly a year ago, I wrote that I thought it was time to get our troops out of Afghanistan. A remarkable 74% of our readers who voted in our poll agreed. Events since then have tended to confirm that we should pull the plug on our military effort.
The latest example is the fiasco over the burning of a few Korans by American troops. The facts surrounding the incident are somewhat murky; apparently a number of books were being used by Taliban prisoners to smuggle messages, and 60 or 70 books were confiscated and destroyed, some of which turned out to be Korans. The Korans’ burning is generally described as “accidental.” I assume that means, not that the destruction was unintended, but that the troops who carried it out did not realize that some of the volumes were Korans–not surprising, since they were not in English.
What we do know for sure is that the response of many Afghans was outrageous. Dozens of people have been killed or wounded, including a number of American servicemen. The ongoing violence illustrates the primitive level of culture in Afghanistan. The country, if it can properly be called such, is hundreds of years behind modern civilization. I don’t think nation-building is always a bad idea, but a certain amount and quality of raw material is required. In Afghanistan, the prerequisites for successful nation-building are absent.
Our initial overthrow of the Taliban at the end of 2001 was absolutely necessary. The Taliban had harbored al Qaeda and collaborated, in effect, in the September 11 attacks. Since then, we have killed large numbers of Taliban. That is a good thing, but the returns are diminishing. When we leave, the Taliban or similar Islamic extremists presumably will take control of portions, at least, of the country. That is a bad thing, obviously, but the same result seems more or less equally likely no matter when our troops depart.
It has never been clear why we can’t use drones, air power and troops stationed reasonably nearby to prevent the Taliban or other extremist groups from setting up extensive training centers that can be used for attacks on the U.S., such as those that existed before September 2001. If such measures are feasible, leaving Afghanistan should not damage our security. And, in any event, if our security depends on Afghanistan becoming a decent society within a lifetime or two, God help us.
Currently, as we noted last month, President Obama seems to be setting up a negotiated “peace” agreement of some sort with a Taliban front group. That, too, is a terrible idea. Let’s not negotiate anything or engage in any pretense; let’s just get out, while killing a few more terrorists on the way to the door.