Several high profile conservative pundits have recently turned against the U.S. mission in Afghanistan. The group includes columnists Ann Coulter, George Will, Tony Blankley and MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough. These pundits support RNC Chairman Michael Steele and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) who now refer to Afghanistan as “Obama’s war.”
Costs and the Role of America’s Coalition Partners
They all believe the United States can not afford the war, even though we went through the same debate in Iraq. If the 34,000 troops in Obama’s surge remained in America, they would still have to be paid, fed, housed and trained. These are fixed costs regardless of where they are deployed.
They are also claiming America is alone. Over 1000 American soldiers have died in Afghanistan, and our allies have lost over 600. Prior to the surge, more than half of the forces assisting the Afghan fighters, or providing security in Kabul, were from countries other than the United States.
France deployed nearly one-fourth of its navy and Great Britain sent its largest naval task force in 20 years. Australia, Canada, Norway, Denmark and Germany were among the 17 nations which sent forces. America could not have done its work without critical support from countries like Pakistan and Uzbekistan.
Japanese destroyers refueled coalition ships in the Indian Ocean. The Turkish air force refueled American planes. Afghans received treatment in hospitals built by Russians, Jordanians and Spain. They also have received supplies and help from South Korea.
Why The Taliban Can Not be Ignored
The Taliban claims to be a religious organization but they take credit for spraying battery acid in faces of children. They are intent on stopping the education of girls, and they have already destroyed 478 schools.
Many schools have been set on fire or endured attacks from mustard gas rockets. The cruel Taliban attacks will continue, but they are not going to win because the people of Afghanistan are standing up to them.
In 2001, only a million Afghan children were enrolled in school, all of them boys. The education of girls was banned. Today, approximately 7 million Afghan children attend school, of which 2.6 million, or roughly a third, are girls.
All the children receive a free school lunch from U.S. AID (America’s farm surplus). There are 23 year old young women in elementary school because they never were given that opportunity earlier in life. Practically all of their parents are illiterate, but change is slowly coming.
America’s Enemies Live in Afghanistan
The opposition of a few conservative spokesmen is not new. They all opposed the Clinton administration when it joined the NATO mission in the former Yugoslavia. The isolationist argument was easier to justify in 1990’s because there had been no attack on the U.S. mainland.
At that time the U.S. was working to stop genocide, “ethnic cleansing,” rape camps and to bring home millions of refugees. Over 100,000 people were killed.
Their opposition to Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan is now being trumpeted by anti-war organizations such as Code Pink. They have been urging support for a resolution co-sponsored by Senators Russell Feingold (D-WI) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) which would set a timetable for U.S. withdrawal. Rep. Jim McGovern’s (D-MA) amendment requiring an Afghan exit strategy is supported by a majority of House Democrats.
The terrorist enemies of the United States live in Afghanistan, and with the surge they are feeling the full wrath of America’s power projection. Our military has never failed us, and if we stay the course, the Taliban and al-Qaeda will be defeated. According to the Washington Post:
The Democratic left and some conservatives have begun to argue that the Afghan war is unwinnable and U.S. interests can be secured by a much smaller military campaign. Sen. Feingold has proposed a timetable for withdrawal. The alternative they suggest has already been tried — and led to failure in both Afghanistan and Iraq.
For years, U.S. commanders in both countries focused on killing insurgents and minimizing the numbers of U.S. troops rather than pacifying the country. The result was that violence in both countries steadily grew, until a counterinsurgency strategy was applied to Iraq in 2007. As for limiting U.S. intervention in Afghanistan to attacks by drones and Special Forces units, that was the strategy of the 1990s, which, as chronicled by the September 11 commission, paved the way for al-Qaeda’s attacks on New York and Washington. Given that the Taliban and al-Qaeda now also aim to overturn the government of nuclear-armed Pakistan, the risks of a U.S. withdrawal far exceed those of continuing to fight the war — even were the result to be continued stalemate.
There’s a reasonable chance the counterinsurgency approach will yield something better than stalemate, as it did in Iraq. The Taliban insurgency is not comparable to those that earlier fought the Soviets and the British in Afghanistan. Surveys show that support for its rule is tiny, even in its southern base. . . Stabilizing the country will require many years of patient effort and the pain of continued American casualties. Yet the consequences of any other option are likely to be far more dangerous for this country.
UPDATE: As of February, 2011, the U.S. has lost 1,413 soldiers while our allies have lost 859 soldier. Over 8000 members of the Afghanistan security forces have been killed and over 40,000 members of the Taliban and al-Qaeda have been killed or captured.