The War in Afghanistan is officially the longest war in American history. The struggle to control a nation that’s been torn apart for decades has become increasingly more difficult. Our counter-insurgency efforts to block the Taliban from obtaining safe havens are the primary purpose for United States Military being there. Back in 2001, a few months after the attacks on September 11th, we were able to successfully remove the Taliban out of key areas of Afghanistan and put them on the defensive. But throughout the years we’ve struggled to keep the gains we made and lost control of several important territories. Now, almost 11 years later, just as we’ve begun to successfully augment the Afghan army and have driven the Taliban out of multiple prominent cities they took back from us some years earlier, the calls are louder than ever to leave Afghanistan. No doubt, the mission there is extremely onerous and has cost us a lot of American blood and money. But the goal to equip Afghanistan with the tools to deal with terrorist groups fueled by a fundamentalist version of Islam is far too critical to give up on.
Let’s deal with the obvious fact that a majority of Americans are weary of war, Afghanistan in particular. Many people know a son or daughter (or husband or wife) who has tragically lost their lives in an attempt to help certain Middle-Eastern countries deal with the issue of barbaric violence that affects multiple countries on multiple continents. Their impatience and frustration is certainly warranted, and I say the same for those who may not be fortunate enough to know any members of our elite and powerful military. That being said, we only have to go back a certain number of years to remember the costs of a precipitous withdrawal. The main reason we kept our efforts alive in Iraq in 2006 and 2007, even in the face of daily bloodshed from a calamitous civil war, was because we knew that we had two very serious problems that we needed to rectify militarily. The first problem was to fix the Al-Qaeda situation by getting local tribes to turn against them and deny them a place to continue to vex. The second problem that needed to be fixed was a situation that plagued us since the fall of Saddahm Hussein. Iraq had descended into chaos and was unable to perform the necessary functions to create some kind of central government that could protect their citizens.
While a large portion of the country and certain politicians from both parties were insisting that we abandon the quagmire we helped to create and leave Iraq permanently, President Bush insisted we try another strategy. This strategy turned out to be amazingly successful in fixing the first problem, as tribal leaders were able to coalesce and help our military remove insurgents who were affiliated with Al-Qaeda in Iraq. This was the most crucial step in helping to solve the second problem, getting Iraq to form some sort of democratic government. In 2011, Iraq held parliamentary elections and 51 percent of the public turned out and caste their votes. But of course, we didn’t fix every problem in Iraq. Baghdad is still the most dangerous city in the world and innocent people are killed on an almost daily basis. But the point isn’t that the situation is far from perfect, even after all our hard work. The point to take away from the War in Iraq is that a commitment to fulfilling the core components of a military mission is the only thing that should be on our minds, not how we can cut our losses and get out within a (potentially) politically beneficial timeframe.
So the same can almost be said about Afghanistan. Over the last few weeks, we’ve seen an unspeakable tragedy that occurred where an American soldier murdered innocent women and children in cold blood, not to mention the debacle that was created from the burning of Qurans in an Afghani prison. Regardless of these setbacks, we all know the majority of our military men and women treat the Afghans with respect and work very diligently to keep them safe from loathsome extremists like the Taliban and the Haqqani Network. They conduct their mission with the utmost professionalism, even with the extraordinarily difficult circumstances created by the rough terrain and the strict rules of engagement. And while they may not get the gratitude and praise from the Afghan villagers, removing credible threats is beneficial to them whether they choose to acknowledge it or not. All it takes is a look at the report from recent NATO reports that overall violence is down in the parts of Afghanistan where we have increased our troop presence.
This is why I urge the Obama Administration and the American public to reconsider hastening our withdrawal. I’m not saying if we adhere to the timeline we will guarantee success and fulfill every goal we’ve tried to obtain. However, I am saying that we have made a commitment to gain all the ground we can and continue fighting the Taliban for one more season, and showing reticence now is all the motivation they need to declare an early victory. Even if we do end up choosing to draw down our military at a more rapid pace, we need to at least keep the drone attacks at an increased rate. While a mission that has a central focus of counter-terrorism instead of counter-insurgency is not the prescription Afghanistan ultimately needs, it is at the very least not an abandonment of our duty to combat terrorism on a global scale.
This brings me to a point that I hear quite often from people. That point being that our presence is other countries, specifically the Middle East, is deleterious to our goals of preventing another terrorist attack on our soil and making the world a safer place in general. People who subscribe to this opinion say that all we have to do is just get our very own domestic source of oil and energy, and we wouldn’t have to concern ourselves with what goes on in other regions of the world. I want to caution these people and remind them that America has made the world a safer place for the majority of the 20th century and has been a driving force in preventing dictators and rogue countries from rising to a power of significance. We have fought tirelessly for democracy and freedom, and unless we send Ron Paul to the White House, we will relentlessly continue to do so. More importantly, this is why no one has yet to stop us from claiming our role as the leader of the free world and the greatest Super-Power that ever existed.
Moreover, America cannot simply ignore the threats we face in the dangerous world we live in today. It would be unspeakable to look the other way while Iran continues to arm terrorist groups like Hezbollah and now even insurgent groups in Yemen. If they are giving them dangerous weapons now, what would stop them from handing over nuclear material to these groups? Iran is less than a year away from developing enough uranium that would be sufficient for building a nuclear weapon. Granted, our intelligence has not yet confirmed that if and when they actually do reach that point, they would actually do something provocative with it. Regardless, do we really want that option on the table for them? This is not the same situation as Pakistan or India. We’re talking about a genuine theocracy with people running their government who openly advocate for the complete destruction of our strongest ally, Israel. There is also no doubt they have a desire to provoke and maybe even strike the West. Thus, even if we were completely energy independent, it simply would not make sense to abandon our role as the Super-Power who keeps things in check (geopolitically speaking).
Doing the right thing is seldom easy, and it doesn’t often take the form that most people would think. Despite our best intentions, some people would inevitably view America as the aggressor for taking military action against Iran, even if we did acquire solid evidence that Iran was actually not building nuclear facilities for “peaceful purposes” (who would dare to think otherwise?). But, America has been given a special role, one that cannot be ignored even if some don’t like it. The role America plays is the fervent and outspoken promoter of democracy and freedom abroad, and therefore we cannot succumb to the desires of isolation and reticence. We will stand up to anyone who threatens the Western world and our allies, and we will continue to be the unrepentant force for providing global security and international stability.