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National Debt

Afghanistan: Too Few Rewards for Too Much Risk

  • October 08, 2009

    The latest game of politics inside the beltway involves a literal "he-said, she-said" of military and civilian advisors regarding the war in Afghanistan, now eights years old.

    The most responsible answer, one that will not be implemented since those in power are afraid to make hard decisions and risk losing power, is that the U.S. should withdrawal its soldiers and resources from the theatre instead of staving off the inevitable while losing troops and resources to an unwinnable war.

    Afghanistan is not unwinnable because the enemy is better than our forces; we have the most superior fighting force and technology to support it in the entire world.  Afghanistan is unwinnable because there is no means for a central government to effectively govern the country, and without that ability, there is no way to acheive victory, let alone define it.

    With an absence of infrastructure – roads, bridges, utilities – most of the country is inaccessible by conventional means, and those parts are run by centuries-old systems of warlords who have neither the incentive nor the interest in being controlled by a Western-based government that barely has any authority outside of the capital, Kabul.

    It is for this reason that President Hamid Karzai is frequently referred to as the “Mayor of Kabul”.

    Unless the U.S. stays indefinitely until such infrastructure is created, the Taliban or some other similar organization will resume power and rule the country, despite our best efforts and risks.

    The Taliban, as oppressive as they were, were actually the first power to rule Afghanistan effectively in decades and the U.S. did not intervene against them until after the September 11 attacks, and then only because they were harboring Osama bin Laden and other al Queda members and would neither expel nor turn them over.

    Al Queda is the threat around the world; the Taliban are a localized force working inside Afghanistan to reclaim the country from Western influences and return Afghanistan to Muslim rule (the vast majority of Afghanistan is actually Muslim).

    While leaving any war without a “win” is difficult, it should be painfully obvious by now that entering one without a definition of what a “win” looks like in the first place is even worse.

    We can continue to send troops to fight militants in caves and mountains and continue to send billions of dollars in support of the Afghan government, but this is equivalent of pouring oil into an engine with a hole in it; as long as you continue to pour the oil it will run.  The minute you stop, so will it.

    Our country is too extended both militarily and financially to be engaged in an endless war.  With a national debt in the trillions and a military already spread thin, Afghanistan could be better managed (and that’s the best one can hope for) by the CIA and Special Forces collecting intelligence and performing their own missions to eliminate specific (al Queda and other) threats as they are discovered.

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