Tonight, the president will address the nation from the White House. The topic? The withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. How many? Well, we won’t know until the president shares that with us this evening, but most speculate 10,000.
Ten thousand. It sounds like a lot, but it isn’t. We have 100,000 troops in Afghanistan, and we’ve been engaged in that war for a decade now. Ten thousand is only one tenth of the troops who are there.
Now let’s talk about why we’re there. How did this all start?
Briefly: The Taliban was created in reaction to warlordism and lack of Pashtun representation in the government of Kabul. In ’94, they captured Kandahar, in ’95 Herat, and in ’96 Kabul. Then at the end of 2000, the Taliban occupied 95 percent of the country of Afghanistan. At that time, they had the highest infant, child, and maternal mortality rate in Asia. The country was covered in landmines, approximately 10 million of them.
The United States in 1998 sent cruise missiles to attack Osama bin Laden, whose camp was located in Afghanistan. In 2001, we invaded the country of Afghanistan. We bombed that country, a lot, and it had little effect, except for on the mosques, aid agencies, and hospitals we destroyed; and the innocent men, women, and children who we killed, including Al Zawahiri’s wife and several of his children: He’s still alive and now heads al Qaeda. The Northern Alliance fought against the Taliban and won, and most of the Taliban fled to Pakistan, yet the American military remained and still remains there. With just one tenth of the troops being brought home, it would seem we will be there for a very long time. I feel this is a very big mistake. [Check out a roundup of political cartoons on Afghanistan.]
So I must pose the question, what was our mission? Was the mission accomplished, to quote G.W.?
Here’s my checklist:
- Find and kill bin Laden, check [See photos of the reactions to bin Laden's death.]
- Drive the Taliban out of Afghanistan, check
- Give the country and government back to the people of Afghanistan, check
- Allow free elections to be conducted, check
So why are we still there?! To remove those landmines? No, Afghanistan still has one of the largest concentrations of landmines out of any country in the world, despite the efforts of many nations and causes (Australia stated in April they will clear more than 7 million square acres of land fraught with mines). How about those hospitals, mosques, and aid agencies we destroyed? Have we rebuilt them? Well, the good news is that health clinics, roads, and mosques are being rebuilt as part of an effort to support local community development and economic vibrancy, but it’s not enough. There was far too much damage done, and the Afghan people recognize this. And what about those mortality rates? It’s lower, but by less than 2 percent. [See photos of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.]
We constantly talk about cutting spending, our growing deficit, as well as our growing much-neglected domestic issues. Bringing the troops home from Afghanistan is one of the—albeit it, few—areas where both left and right agree.
President Hamid Karzai said we are dangerously close to becoming occupiers. I believe that is more than a sign that it’s time to come home. We have worn out our welcome. If the mission was accomplished, and if we’re there to train and hand off the country of Afghanistan to its rightful owners, the Afghan people, it’s more than time we take the training wheels off and allow Afghanistan to sink or swim on its own. And, more so, they have asked us to. [Read more about national security, terrorism and the military.]
So, although bringing 10,000 troops home is a start, it won’t put a dent in our debt, and it’s a much smaller pace than sending 30,000 troops at a time when we had a surge.
When the Taliban was oppressing the people of Afghanistan, they needed us; now Mr. President, we need us; America needs our troops, their families need them. Bring our men and women home.