Thursday, June 23, 2011

Is It Time to Pull Out of Afghanistan?

Right now, there are approximately 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. By the end of the year, there will be 90,000. And next year, another 23,000 troops will come home, right before the election.

“America, it is time to focus on nation-building here at home,” says President Obama.

But that's not why we're there. Anybody who thinks we're in Afghanistan to raise the standards of living or improve the status of Afghan women, is nuts. We're there because we perceive it to be in our interests to be there. And for good reason.

Let me lay it out. We screwed up the balance of power in the Middle East the second we set foot in Iraq, and now there's no turning back. We've done a fine job driving that country into the arms of Iran, and while doing that, completely forgot about Afghanistan, the one country that should have worried us. As a result, the Taliban has strengthened in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

So what? Who cares what they do, right? Wrong.

Pakistan has been completely destabilized. Things are so bad that Obama decided against telling its leaders he'd be dropping by with a Navy Seal team for bin Laden. And right after that, the Taliban waged a 12-hour attack on a Pakistan military base.

Did I mention that Pakistan has nukes? A Taliban resurgence almost guarantees that some of those nukes will fall into Taliban and al-Qaeda hands.

So what? They can't launch missiles that can reach the U.S., so who cares, right? Wrong again.

It would be amazingly easy to launch a nuke at the U.S. from a scud mounted on something as unsophisticated as a fishing trawler off the Atlantic coast.

That's why we're there. The soldiers who die there are saving countless lives here.

But there's an election coming.

LV Congressman Charlie Dent, in a statement released late last night, wants to know what the military thinks. Noting that President Obama's surge was motivated by the recommendation of military commanders, he questions whether Obama's decision is politically motivated. "I hope the President’s decision to begin drawing-down our troop presence in Afghanistan, with the goal of returning to pre-surge levels by the end of 2012, is similarly based on changing conditions on the ground and the recommendations of American commanders, rather than political advisers." Dent wants to hear from the military. "I am eager to be briefed by Department of Defense officials on today’s decision by the President and expect to receive regular updates on the effect the drawdown is having on American and Afghan security.”

Mitt Romney, a Republican presidential candidate, echoes Dent. "This decision should not be based on politics or economics. America's brave men and women in uniform have fought to achieve significant progress in Afghanistan, some having paid the ultimate price. I look forward to hearing the testimony of our military commanders in the days ahead." But there are GOP presidential contenders, like former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, who want us pull out now. "We need a safe but rapid withdrawal which encourages Afghans to assume responsibility, while leaving in place a strong counter intelligence and special forces effort proportionate to the threat."

What do you think?


Anonymous said...

I think if Dent wants to be the Commander-in-Chief he should run for President. Last time I checked we have civilian authority in this nation and thank God for that. Also had George W. Bush not been given a blank check that he foolishly cashed in Iraq instead of Afghanistan, maybe this would not be the issue it is today.

What is the end game. The armchair quarterbacks in the safety of Washington say we need to stay to "win". Win what? The scenario Charlie is laying out is the permanent presence of American forces in Afghanistan.

Unacceptable and irresponsible. Enough with the Obama bashing. These guys supported over a trillion dollars of effort in two ten year wars, in which only one even had a legitimate reason.

Sorry on this one the Republicans have less credibility than a kid with a super soaker.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Excuse me, but there has been no Obama-bashing in this post. The only bashing I see is coming from you. This post is not intended for that purpose, but to discuss a very real nuclear threat, and whether a withdrawal is justified.

notsocasualobserver said...

There have been significant improvements n Afghan, the Taliban is weakened. A draw down is possible, howver it should not occur during the fighting season, which will end in Nov or Dec when the weather becomes prohibitive. However removing the entire surge personnel prior to Oct 2012 does not seem to be militarily practical. Command suggests that in 2 years the Afghas will be capable of aecurity largely on their own.

Anything else smacks of politcal expediency priorto the elections

Anonymous said...

War is bad for the flowers and the children, if we coul just talk to those people instead of bombing them, perhaps we'd have peace and understanding

Anonymous said...

Afghanistan was a good idea for about two months - the point at which we accomplished as much as we've ever accomplished in 10 years.

The history of successful conquering of Afghanistan is long. Er, wait. That's France. Afghanistan has been conquered exactly never.

Our generals can't even describe victory in Afghanistan to the troops they lead. Ask anybody what the hell we're doing there after 10 years.

The "surge" did nothing but surge our death toll. Obama took the LBJ approach on an existing war and achieved the same result.


Anonymous said...

Yes, it's time. It's a waste of time, money and lives. We don't have 6.7 billion to spend every month. Bin Laden's goal wasn't just to kill 3000 Americans, it was to get us involved in useless wars that would bankrupt us and ruin our economy. I'm sure he died happy.

Alan Earnshaw said...

It's been almost 58 years since the Korean War ended, and we still have a significant military presence at the DMZ. (One of my high school friends, an Army Lt. Col., is currently deployed there.) That's been a huge drain on our treasury as well, but I don't hear anyone calling for us to withdraw our troops from there. Perhaps that's because there is no active fighting?

I think South Korea has the wherewithal to assume responsibility for its own defense. If we're going to start bringing troops home, let's start where they truly are not needed and focus our resources to stabilize, as best we can, the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan (which are largely unstable as a result of our actions).

Patrick McHenry said...

I find the President's speech last night baffling.

Why tell your enemies your timetable for withdrawal? We know the Taliban still exists and the Administration is negotiating with them. What Afghan in their right mind sides with us over the next two years knowing that we'll be leaving them to the Taliban by a certain date? That makes the situation even more dangerous for our troops.

As to the negotiations with the Taliban, it would seem to me that the foremost goal of the Taliban would be to have us leave. I would think that the President's speech just undercut any leverage we had with the Taliban. That doesn't seem very smart. Why should they agree to anything, if we're already leaving?

I'm all for getting back out, but this doesn't seem like a smart way to go about it.

I think that last night's speech was more about helping the President's falling poll numbers than our national interest.

Anonymous said...

I've noticed McHenry that you find many things baffling..Did the thought ever occur to you that we eventually have to leave? Don't you think the Taliban figured that out already..Whether we leave now or ten years from now, they will attempt to come back in and take over. WE can not afford to be there now..Someone earlier had commented that Bin Laden died happy because he has crippled us economically. They were correct! The longer we stay there the happier his friends he left behind will be..The longer they can tie us down there and everywhere else
the worse it is for our ecomonmy..We are now talking about cutting medicare and social Security, and just about everything else domestically..if we continue these wars, we will end up broke..Enough of your stupid Obama bashing...Seriously, are you that freaking stupid to think that no other president had also concerned himself with political claculations when determine foreign policy??

Bernie O'Hare said...

I find it interesting that not one of the people who want to pull out of Afghanistan wants to consider the nuclear threat. If a nuke is launched at us from the Jersey shore, that will be a lot more expensive in many ways than 10 years in Afghanistan.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, your concern about nukes is rational, but what is to stop somebody from launching one while we are still bleeding lives and dollars in a never-ending military occupatiion of Afghanistan? Who benefits? Cate

Bernie O'Hare said...

Cate, I do not believe we ever belonged in that area of the world n the first place. But having gone there, completely destabilizing an entire region, I think we must stay until we are certain things are stable again, or at least as stable as they are going to be. My view is that leaving too early will further destabilize Pakistan, making it far more likely for hostile forces to get their hands on a nuke and attack us. It could happen anyway, you are right, but isn't it far less likely with us there?

CT said...

I guess I understand the frustration Anon 1:42 expressed, and like Huntsman I think a responsible exit as soon as possible is the best course.

Pakistan is a nuclear mess, but I don't think the threat they pose is quite as legitimate as you make it sound. Trawler-mounted SCUD launcher's is a new one to me, though I have heard the alarm raised over the specter of suitcase bombs and the like. But it strikes me as kind of revisionist to suggest that our presence there was ever justified by Pakistan's nukes, when I remember it having a lot more to do with revenge for 9/11. And if anything, the Pakistani civilian casualties our less-than-descriminating drone campaign is responsible for seems likelier to hurt than to help the "keep Pakistan stable and friendly" effort.

Concerning the wisdom of broadcasting our intentions to the other side of the negotiating table, I guess that these days I put more stock in Obama's willingness to drop bombs without calling it an act of war than in his feeling constrained by any vague promises or pretensions to peace he makes. Our "enemies" would be wise to do the same.

Also, from what I've read, the draw-down proposed involves primarily non-combat personnel, as military commanders want to keep as many combat personnel as possible for the next two fighting seasons. So basically, Obama's giving the military exactly what it wants (well, it always wants more), but in his speech he's trying to make it sound like he's giving the tired American public the end of fighting that they want. There's political posturing in everything he does, but to be fair that's true of Dent's statement. He's alleging that Obama isn't as suitably obedient to the military brass as Dent would be himself, but I'm sure he knows better than that.

Sorry for the long comment!

Bernie O'Hare said...

I appreciated the long comment. It made lots of sense.

Anonymous said...

If Obama's decision is based on politics, that means that he's doing it to gain favor with the voters. So the voters, the people, who are paying for it in lives and money, want out of a foreign war. So are you suggesting that a military elite override the will of the people? Who is in charge? Is this a democracy or a military dictatorship?

Lighthouse said...

Bernie, your piece is well-written, and gives an honest argument to stay there. I respect honest differences of opinion. However, while not defending Obama’s timetable, I cannot resist the below:

B: But that's not why we're there. Anybody who thinks we're in Afghanistan to raise the standards of living or improve the status of Afghan women, is nuts (your words, not mine).

3-31-11: “WASHINGTON -- After 10 years in Afghanistan, former President George W. Bush doesn't think it's quite time to pull out of Afghanistan yet. "My concern of course is that the United States gets weary of being in Afghanistan, it is not worth it, let's leave," Bush said in an interview that aired Thursday on Fox News' "On the Record with Greta Van Susteren." "And Laura and I believe that if that were to happen, women would suffer again. We don't believe that's in the interests of the United States or the world to create a safe haven for terrorists and stand by and watch women's rights be abused.’”

B: Let me lay it out. We screwed up the balance of power in the Middle East the second we set foot in Iraq…We've done a fine job driving that country into the arms of Iran, and while doing that, completely forgot about Afghanistan.

I agree, and that was the fault not of Dems or Reps per se, but the neo-cons who dominated the Bush Administration. The blowback of some US policies can be a lengthy discussion.

B: Pakistan has been completely destabilized…Did I mention that Pakistan has nukes? A Taliban resurgence almost guarantees that some of those nukes will fall into Taliban and al-Qaeda hands…That's why we're there. The soldiers who die there are saving countless lives here.

Valid opinion, but echoes of LBJ, 1965: “We are also there because there are great stakes in the balance. Let no one think for a moment that retreat from Vietnam
would bring an end to conflict. The battle would be renewed in one
country and then another. The central lesson of our time is that the appetite of aggression is never satisfied. To withdraw from one battlefield means only to prepare for the next. We must say in southeast Asia—as we did in Europe—in the words of the Bible:
“Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further.”

And Nixon, 1969: “For the future of peace, precipitate withdrawal would thus be a disaster of immense magnitude…Ultimately, this would cost more lives. It would not bring peace; it would bring more war. For these reasons, I rejected the recommendation that I should end the war by immediately withdrawing all of our forces.”

So how long do we stay? As mentioned by a poster above, do we stay 60 years like in Korea? We can handle the Nazis, imperialist Japanese, and the Soviets, but small, poor, backwater, “threats to our security” always seem to bog us down for decades to great loss of life and treasure. Even the Soviets left Afghanistan (though the blowback of US support of the Mujahideen giving rise to the Taliban is another lengthy discussion of blowback).

Patrick McHenry said...

Anon 11:33 -

Yes, I know we have to leave there eventually and I'll be happy to have our troops home. What I'm questioning is the wisdon of announcing the timetable. I have a problem with that because no matter how you want to do get our troops home, it will take time. Announcing the timetable puts those soldiers who remain there in danger. That's unacceptable.

There is no rational reason for announcing it, other than politics. In my mind, that's shameful.

I am not Obama bashing, but I seem to be one of the only people who remembers that we only had 38,000 troops in Afghanistan when Obama took office. Now we have many more. If you don't like having so many troops there, you need look no further than the CURRENT President.

Yes, we have civilian rule in this country, but we also have a professional military to advise our elected leaders. There is no arguing that Obama has zero military experience and needs that advice.

Obama took forever to decide to commit more troops to Afghanistan, before deciding to listen to the most successful General the country has had in a decade (Petraeus). It troubles me that now Obama seems willing to disregard the advice of those who are knowledgeable about warfare.

As to Medicare, the wars have nothing to do with that programs going bankrupt and needing to be revamped. The math simply doesn't work on that type of costly entitlement program. I credit the Republicans for having the courage to begin the discussion of how to make sure those programs can continue without bankrupting the nation.

Regarding the economy, there has been nothing more damaging than the failed economic policies followed by this President and his administration. Socialism or income redistribution never works and always ends up with high unemployment and a lower standard of living for EVERYONE. At least on that, Obama can say "Mission Accomplished".

Anonymous said...

Afghanistan doesn't have nukes and how being there affects our ability to make Pakistan behave with their nukes escapes me. Perhaps we should consider less cuddling of Pakistan and a closer relationship with otherwise peaceful India. Now there's a novel approach.

Anonymous said...

If even one nuke is launched from Pakistan, Pakistan will cease to exist. Take your pick, India? Russia? The tipping point is coming.


CT said...

Adm. Mike Mullen's hearing in the aftermath of Obama's speech answers Dent's charge as to whether or not the President has been taking advice from his military commanders.

And in response to Patrick McHenry's claim that "there is no rational reason for announcing it, other than politics. In my mind, that's shameful," Mullen offers one:

If the U.S. didn't draw down, "we would have made it easier for the Karzai administration to increase their dependence on us." -Mullen via Weigel

Patrick McHenry said...

CT -

Yes, I understand how the military works.

Mullen has been brought back into line and reminded who is in charge - and what the remainder of his career would look like if he didn't.

Hopefully he didn't get whiplash from the sudden change in position.

Anonymous said...

Almost had me there McHenry, until you spouted on about socialism and the failed economic policies of this administration..Really? When he came in the nation was essentially bankrupted by the Bush tax cuts, two wars , and the never tax the rich policies of the bush Administration..Oh yeah, Bush instituted the wonderful prescription drug program and made big Phara richer than beyond our imagination while helping to again bankrupt the nation..Didn't know georgey boy was a socialist..

Patrick McHenry said...

Anon 4:10 -

As a conservative, I couldn't agree with you more about the prescription drug benefit being a big mistake. I don't remember the Democrats putting up much of a fight against it though.

I also agree that the rich aren't paying their fair share of taxes. They're paying much more than that.

The class warfare stuff you spout is working out great - we've got Depression levels of unemployment in some areas of the country. Minority groups - who the Democrats love to say they care about - have been some of the hardest hit.

Of course, I'm sure you'll say it was much worse a few years ago when the unemployment rate was hovering around 5%.

Zorn said...

before we leave we need to bomb the hell out of pakistan - they are the ones who have been stabbing us in the back. as we bribe them to be our friends they help hide our enemies

Anonymous said...

Old Henry McPatrick and his piss down economics. So since Bush dropped the tax rate on the wealthy we have experienced a huge increase in jobs, right. That has been the latest selling point craze to screw the middle class and have them thank you for it.

If you return the rate to what it was in Reagan's time the rich won't create jobs. So the rate has been lowered for the past decade. Hows that Creating joby thing coming along.

You betcha!

Patrick McHenry said...

Anon 1:23 -

The unemployment rate was around 5% up until the time the dems took back congress. Then the increased government spending by Congressional dems - and signed off on by Bush - started to kill off jobs.

Now we have more poverty, more unemployment, more people on food stamps, and very little hope for change on the horizon (at least under Obama).

We can debate the economy all day, but Bernie's post was on Afghanistan. You must feel great that even after the President gets his draw down, we'll still have almost twice as many troops there as when Bush left office.