Regardless of recent setbacks, the United States has a national security interest in Afghanistan and abandoning the country now will result in disastrous consequences, Sens. John McCain, Joseph Lieberman, and Lindsey Graham write in an Op-Ed in The Washington Post
“A series of tragic events in Afghanistan has increased the desire of a war-weary public to end our mission there,” the senators write. “As heart-wrenching as these events have been, they do not change the vital U.S. national security interests at stake in Afghanistan, nor do they mean that the war is lost. It is not. There is still a realistic path to success if the right decisions are made in the coming months.”
The three were referring to the riots and killings that were sparked when U.S. troops inadvertently burned copies of the Koran and the killings of 16 Afghan civilians by an American soldier. The two incidents have rekindled debate over when the United States should leave the country it invaded after 9/11.
However, McCain, R-Ariz., Graham, R-S.C., and Connecticut independent Lieberman note that “what happens in Afghanistan directly affects our safety here at home.”
“We abandoned Afghanistan in the 1990s, and the result was a fanatical regime that allowed its territory to become a base for global terror attacks, while inflicting medieval tyranny on the Afghan people, especially women,” they said. “If we quit Afghanistan again, and abandon the millions of Afghans who have risked everything to be our allies in the hopes of succeeding together, the consequences will be disastrous for both our peoples.”
The senators argue that military progress has been made in Afghanistan and efforts to build up the Afghan National Security Forces have resulted in units “increasingly capable of leading the fight.”
“To sustain this fragile progress, it is critical that President Obama resist the shortsighted calls for additional troop reductions, which would guarantee failure. Our forces are slated to draw down to 68,000 by September — a faster pace than our military commanders recommended, which has significantly increased the risks for our mission. At a minimum, there should be a pause after September to assess the impact of the drawdown. It would be much better to maintain the 68,000 forces through next year’s fighting season, possibly longer.”
The senators wrote that the suspicion the United States will again abandon Afghanistan “makes everything our troops are trying to achieve significantly harder” and creates incentives for the Taliban to keep fighting.
“The best way to reverse this dynamic is by realizing the president’s stated goal of a long-term political, economic, and military relationship with Afghanistan. The mechanism for doing so is the Strategic Partnership Agreement, which the U.S. and Afghan governments have painstakingly negotiated for two years.”
Concluding the agreement would provide a framework for an “enduring U.S. military commitment to Afghanistan beyond 2014.” The U.S. military commitment after 2014 would involve a fraction of the current military presence, they wrote.
“These decisions rest, more than anyone else, with President Obama,” they conclude. “We have disagreed with some of his choices regarding the war in Afghanistan. But after all our nation has sacrificed in Afghanistan, we stand ready to do everything in our power to secure the same bipartisan support for this war in its twilight hours as when it began more than a decade ago.”
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