By Teresa Welsh |
In December of 2009, President Obama announced that the last American troops would leave Afghanistan in 2014. On June 22 of last year, Obama declared that 10,000 troops would be withdrawn by the end of 2011 and an additional 23,000 would be leaving Afghanistan by this summer. Currently about 80,000 troops remain in Afghanistan.
The War in Afghanistan is more than a decade old, making it the second-longest war in American history behind Vietnam. Recent events in the country have shifted the public’s focus back to America’s withdrawal timeline. In January, a video purporting to show U.S. soldiers urinating on dead Taliban fighters surfaced on the Internet and quickly spread. Afghan and American officials condemned the action, and Hillary Clinton said the men may be guilty of a war crime. A month later, U.S. troops at Bagram Air Base set fire to copies of the Koran, inciting anti-American riots that left over 40 dead and hundreds of injured. Last weekend, an Army sergeant allegedly left his base and killed 16 Afghan civilians in the Panjwai District of Kandahar Province, prompting ongoing protests against the American presence in the country.
Proponents of a precipitated withdrawal argue that the United States has already achieved its main objectives in the country—ousting the Taliban and gaining a stronghold on the country’s al Qaeda presence. Nation-building, they say, was never the objective, and leaving American troops in Afghanistan to preside over the creation of a democratic state is unwise.
Opponents of a quicker withdrawal disagree, arguing that leaving sooner would do more harm than good. They claim that if the United States leaves earlier than 2014, it would increase the likelihood of a resurgent Taliban and waste the years of toil and American lives lost during the conflict.
Should the U.S. withdraw from Afghanistan sooner? Here’s the Debate Club’s take.
Caroline Wadhams Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress
Shuja Nawaz Director of the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council