Tags: Obama | Afghanistan

Mr. President: Bring Troops Home Soon

Tuesday, 17 Nov 2009 10:53 AM

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If Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s request of President Obama for 40,000 additional troops for Afghanistan were met, the cost would be $40 billion to $54 billion a year, according to an internal government estimate The New York Times published.

“The rough formula used by the White House, of about $1 million per soldier a year, appears almost constant,” according to the Sunday Times article, which quoted U.S. Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., chairman of a subcommittee on defense appropriations, as saying that “total spending on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars would surge past $1 trillion next year, which could hamper the economy for years to come.”

It is almost a foregone conclusion that the president will not authorize the 40,000 troops requested — the general originally requested 80,000 — but in all probability, he will authorize a smaller number. Any increase, as opposed to embarking upon an immediate exit strategy, would be a grave error.

As of Oct. 15, a plurality of Americans opposed the Afghanistan war, and for good reason. In Afghanistan, we are propping up a corrupt administration where everything is for sale and the government is mired in the drug trade.

Furthermore, the Karzai government is incompetent. Despite years of training by U.S. forces, the Karzai regime’s army has no control over the country. The Taliban controls much of Afghanistan, with President Hamid Karzai’s authority existing primarily in the capital of Kabul. The Karzai government, with the support of the U.S., apparently is seeking to negotiate with the so-called “moderate” Taliban supporters and possibly bring them into the government.

President Obama has decided, correctly, to take his time to explore all options. This is the moment he should take to examine the option of withdrawing from Afghanistan simultaneously with our scheduled withdrawal from Iraq.

During the presidential campaign, Sen. John McCain suggested that we could be in Iraq for another 50 years or more, an unwise statement to which candidate Obama strongly objected.

The Iraqi government compelled the United States to agree to withdraw no later than Dec. 31, 2011, and possibly before that date. The U.S. army is considering beginning the withdrawal from Iraq in January. Why not apply that same schedule to Afghanistan?

Some would say that the Taliban will be back in Kabul were we to withdraw by the beginning of next year. They probably will, even though the Karzai army is almost 200,000 strong, and the Taliban numbers are far fewer. The difference is that religion motivates members of the Taliban, and the soldiers of the Afghan government are not motivated to defend their civil central government.

The Afghan army and Afghan police are perceived universally as grossly corrupt. Should our young men die or sustain serious injuries to protect a society unwilling and unable to defend itself?

If our army were composed of draftees instead of volunteers, we already would have seen massive marches in the streets calling on the president to bring our soldiers home as was the case in the late '60s and '70s. I believe that, although, our country on the domestic front in the congressional election next year will concentrate on the need for jobs, the public also will be marching to end the war and bring our troops home.

Bringing the troops home does not mean the terrorists have won. The focus of our efforts should be the tribal areas of Pakistan where the Taliban and al-Qaida are entrenched and allegedly receive aid and comfort from parts of the Pakistan army and its intelligent services. The terrorists undoubtedly are aiming to make the Pakistan government fall. We now use drones and special forces to pursue the Taliban and al-Qaida in Pakistan. We can continue to pursue those terrorists in both Pakistan and Afghanistan from offshore ships and missile launchers.

I believe that next year’s election will be decided on what each party proposes to do in Afghanistan. If we Democrats expect to win, we will have to persuade the public that we intend to bring our troops home. If President Obama wants to pursue his expensive and expansive domestic programs, he will need to enhance his majorities or at least minimize the normal biennial congressional losses.

I urge him to signal his intention to bring our troops home soon. There isn’t much time left to demonstrate leadership and not appear to be dragged along. The marches will begin soon.

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