Removing more than half of America’s troops from Afghanistan will allow the government to focus on other matters.
The first problem with the United States’ engagement in Afghanistan is that the war is making the situation worse. The goal of the war was originally to disable al-Qaida, but the goal has since become to stop the Taliban insurgency and create a stable and independent Afghan government. To accomplish this goal, the U.S. military has made it a priority to eradicate Taliban insurgents and an attempt to make Afghanistan self-sufficient.
The American invasion, however, has led to an increase in the number of Taliban fighters. From 2001-11, Taliban fighter numbers increased from 200 to 30,000, according to The New York Times. As Australian counter-insurgency expert David Kilcullen explained, this is largely because U.S. involvement is so overbearing that many moderate Afghan civilians move to an extremist position as their friends are killed or their neighborhoods are destroyed. An American presence, it appears, is the single greatest recruitment tool for the Taliban. Pulling out now eliminates the motivation to fight for more moderate Afghan civilians and Taliban insurgents.
Undoubtedly, extremist and fundamentalist Taliban fighters will continue to fight the Afghan government for control of the country. However, the Afghan government, the United States and the world will benefit more from withdrawal than from continued engagement.
The next reason to withdraw is because even if United States troops remain in Afghanistan, the United States cannot win the war. Since taking office, Obama has not pledged enough troops to the fight in Afghanistan; his predecessor, President George W. Bush, did not send enough troops during his time in office, either. The current levels of troops are too low for the United States to effectively fight the Taliban, provide security for civilian populations, train replacement Afghan troops and help rebuild infrastructure.
Consequently, U.S. action in these matters is ineffective at best and harmful at worst. The best the U.S. military can do now is to leave the situation. It’s arguable that the U.S. had created a worse situation in Afghanistan than before the war. Nevertheless, continued involvement will do more harm than good in Afghanistan.
Finally, the goal of fighting terrorism is best achieved by focusing attention elsewhere. Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, in a speech given on campus last fall, posited that terrorist threats now come from unorganized states. Afghanistan is unstable but far more stable than some other failing states.
If the U.S. government wants to stop terrorism, it should turn its efforts toward aiding fragile and failing states. The government has already taken steps in this direction by helping to stabilize Libya and Egypt after the overthrow of leaders Moammar Gaddafi and Hosni Mubarak, respectively. The United States needs to expand these policies, and reallocating resources from Afghanistan to other sensitive areas is sensible policy.
Dan Morgan-Russell is a freshman majoring in international relations.
The U.S. should wait until Afghanistan is ready to fight terrorism without international aid.
If the embassy attacks in Egypt and Istanbul are any indication, terrorism and anti-American sentiment are coming to a head. Now is the time that the military shows its strength, not the time it backs away. It would be cowardly to remove ourselves from the situation before the safety and welfare of our citizens is assured.
One only needs to look at the disaster known as the Vietnam War for evidence. Retreating with its tail between its legs, the U.S. military became a laughingstock of the world, one that went down in the record books. It is still possible to “fix” Afghanistan, but it requires more work, something that the United States seems incapable of. Instead of giving up, the country needs to put in the effort to fix the problems that it largely started. The American presence in Afghanistan antagonized many, and though it’s nice to think that everything will be OK by simply leaving, it’s naïve to think that’s the case.
It is also imperative to mention the fact that Afghanistan is in no way ready to take control of their military. Still a relatively new democracy, the country still deals with the raging lunacy of the Taliban. By leaving the country, the United States is basically inviting the Taliban back in. The American military provides a sense of security for Afghanistan. This security can back down only when there is an adequate military ready to take its place — and Afghan forces just won’t cut it.
Americans want their troops home, but they need to comprehend what they would be leaving: a country barely holding itself together, a country ruined by their acts, a country that still needs a helping hand.
Yes, the United States has its own problems, but it is time that we show the world that we don’t give up, and we take accountability for our actions.
Sheridan Watson is a junior majoring in critical studies. She is also the Editorial Director of the Daily Trojan.