It’s time to get out of Afghanistan now

Joseph Glatzer

SO05-afgahnistan

From the calm and measured intelligent discourse of cable news to the hard hitting in-depth stories of the Associated Press, the debate is raging.  Should we send more troops to Afghanistan?

The debate is usually very narrowly defined: “Are there enough troops in Afghanistan to win?” or “If we send more troops is winning possible?” Assuming that the war is “winnable,” does that make it right to wage it?

Let’s put the shoe on the other foot for a moment.  If Afghanistan invaded the U.S., and Afghan TV debated about whether the war against the American terrorists was winnable, how would we feel about it?

If Pashtun and Tajik pundits callously debated how many more troops it would take to pacify Washington, D.C., would Americans just accept occupation and greet the invaders as liberators?  Or would we fight to defend our homeland?  The Afghan people are no different than us. No one likes being occupied.

Whether most Afghans agree with the Taliban’s ultra-strict version of Islam or not is irrelevant.  When your country is under attack, you join up with whoever can expel the occupiers.  Find this hard to believe?  Don’t forget how we gave Bush a blank check to do whatever he wanted when our country was under attack.

The common justification for the occupation of Afghanistan has been the Sept. 11 attacks.  We had a responsibility to bring the hijackers and those that supported them to justice, to bring peace to the families of the victims.  We haven’t caught bin Laden in eight years. All we’ve done is kill more innocent people.

Do Americans even know who we are fighting in Afghanistan?  When the Russians invaded Afghanistan in 1979, the U.S. sent hundreds of millions of dollars to train and equip the most radical jihadists it could find.  We funded these radicals through Pakistan’s ISI, and one of our star subjects was Osama bin Laden.  All of these fundamentalists, who we armed and trained 30 years ago are now our “enemies.”

Ronald Reagan called them “the freedom fighters of Afghanistan.”  Now, they are “terrorists.” This is the monster we’ve created with our arrogance and ignorance.  Every time the U.S. sticks its nose where it doesn’t belong, it makes the situation worse.

Now we’re arming and training warlords, drug lords, and criminals to fight the fundamentalists.  But who are we going to pay to fight the warlords 20 to 30 years from now?  When does the cycle of violence end?  Do we ever learn our lesson?

The central government of Hamid Karzai, who just stole an election, only controls 20 percent of the country.  So, if this is the status after eight years, the only thing more troops will do is lead to more deaths of US soldiers and Afghan civilians.  This of course leads to more recruits for the Taliban, and the U.S. has to send more troops.  This bloodshed can go on forever if we don’t put a stop to it right now.

Russia invaded Afghanistan in 1979, and the mujahideen bled their empire dry. President Carter’s National Security Adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, came up with the idea of funding Afghan rebels to draw the Soviets in to defend their proxy government.

Brzezinski describes the game, “We didn’t push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would … That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Soviets into the Afghan trap…”  Russia spent 10 years there, and it bled their empire dry.

Now it appears that bin Laden is laying the trap for us, and we fell for it: hook, line, and sinker.  Will we be the next empire to die in Afghanistan?

As Jeremy Scahill, author of “Blackwater” and an expert on military affairs, said, “The United States occupation is the single greatest recruitment tool for the insurgency in Afghanistan, including the Taliban.”  Does bombing Afghan wedding parties, killing dozens of civilians instantly and suddenly make Afghans want to sing the Star Spangled Banner?  Of course not.  It justifiably makes them want to kill us.

The truth is this: The fewer troops we have there, the less power and appeal the Taliban will have.  Let’s get the hell out of the Land of the Pashtuns as soon as possible, which would give the Afghan people a real chance to sort out their own affairs, and find their own democratic voice.