President Obama made a surprise pre-dawn trip to Afghanistan to mark the one
year anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden and to sign a document
further extending the US presence in that country. The president said,
"we're building an enduring partnership...As you stand up, you will not
stand alone." What that means in practice is that the US will continue
its efforts to prop up the government in Afghanistan for another ten years
beyond the promised withdrawal date of 2014.
of us who believe the US should leave Afghanistan immediately, the president
retorted, "We must give Afghanistan the opportunity to stabilize."
But how long will that take, when we have already fought the longest war in
our nation's history at incredible human and economic cost to the nation and
no end is in sight?
little evidence of any sustained increase in stability in Afghanistan and, in
fact, April saw the loss of 34 more American troops and an escalation of
violence and upheaval. Within 90 minutes of the president's departure, seven
more people were killed in Kabul by a suicide bomber. It is clear that our
presence in that country is not creating any real stability. With Osama bin
Laden dead and the al Qaeda presence in Afghanistan virtually non-existent,
we are reduced to nation-building in a nation where there is no real nation
ask ourselves why Obama's trip was a "surprise" visit rather than a
normal state visit. The reason is that after ten years it is still far too
dangerous to travel in or out of that country. Does that not speak much more
loudly than the president's optimistic words about the amazing progress we
have made in Afghanistan?
our enduring commitment mean? Ask the South Koreans, where the United States
has maintained an "enduring commitment" of US troops more than
fifty years after hostilities ended. By some estimates the United States
taxpayer is saddled with a 40 billion dollar annual price tag for our
"enduring commitment" to maintaining a US military presence in
Korea. Polls suggest that particularly younger Koreans are tired of the US
military presence in their country and would prefer us to leave. The same is
true for the residents of Okinawa, who have argued strongly and with some
recent success for American troops to leave their island.
Soviets believed the road to their goal for a universal form of government
ran through Afghanistan. They were also wrong and paid an enormous price.
However, after nine years and 15,000 Soviet lives lost, the communist regime
in Moscow realized its mistake and withdrew from that country. The Soviet
withdrawal was complete in early 1989. The Soviet Union by that time had
further plunged into economic crisis, fueled in great part by its commitment
to maintain a global empire of client states. Later that year, the Soviet
world began crashing down, with first the collapse of Eastern European
regimes and then the Soviet Union itself. That collapse produced an economic
calamity for the successor states from which most have not yet fully
recovered. It is not too late for the United States to learn what the Soviets
discovered too late, back in 1989. Mr. President: the time to leave
Afghanistan is today, not in 2024.