The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

October 16, 2010

It's high time we got out of Afghanistan


Daily Star

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Nine years and nine days ago, we began our invasion of Afghanistan in response to the horrific 9/11 terrorist attacks in the U.S. We had a goal back then, but now it has been lost. Let's bring the troops home.

A month after 9/11, we bombed and invaded Afghanistan because its Taliban government was allowing al-Qaida to run terrorist training camps. We deposed the rulers and installed pro-U.S. ones. Now, nearly a decade later, there are still terrorists training there, there's an active insurgency and the government we support is full of rampant corruption.

Meanwhile, most Americans oppose the war and believe our own nation is floundering.

With our original goal of finding Osama bin Laden and ridding the country of al-Qaida long a failed mission, we are clinging to the desperate rhetoric of the Bush administration that Islamic fascism is our real enemy. But we cannot win that war.

When the war on terrorism was launched after the 9/11 attacks, the United States was on the moral high road -- and there are few occasions when that has been the case, World War II being the clearest example.

That high road, however, quickly descended into a trail muddied by human-rights and war-ethics violations as we became obsessed not with the terrorists, because they weren't there, but with overthrowing a government and installing a new one.

The Taliban, who are Afghans, are more popular today than they were nine years ago, enjoying a vast majority of popular support because they are seen as nationalists defending the country against foreign invaders. Sounds a lot like Vietnam, with Ho Chi Minh and his troops.

More than 1,200 American troops have been killed since the 2001 invasion, but just as many Afghan civilians have been killed this year either by U.S.-led coalition forces or by Taliban-led combatants. It is time for the war to end. Everyone involved agrees there will never be a military conclusion to the conflict, though the U.S. seems unwilling to admit it publicly.

President Obama may have set some deadlines for a drawdown and eventual end to combat in Afghanistan, but that's not good enough. All the talk in this country is about deficits and debt, recession and taxes, and those problems are directly related to the costs of the Iraq war and the continuing struggle in Afghanistan.

Despite that, few Americans seemed to be paying much attention to the Afghan war as the conflict entered its 10th year last week. They apparently believe we can solve our economic and deficit problems by slashing government spending at home while still spending countless millions a day on a war whose purpose has dissipated.

It really doesn't make sense to make our senior citizens suffer with another year of no increase in Social Security checks while we fight a pointless war.

It shouldn't be necessary to watch how many states, cities and schools are forced to compromise their missions with cuts and layoffs while we finance a war that the Soviets couldn't win three decades ago.

It's definitely not healthy for our economy and jobless workers to keep going into debt with China so that hardly anything is manufactured in our country anymore, while we continue to fight a costly war we can't afford.

In the upcoming election, it is ridiculous that Obama and the politicians in power are being blamed for the deficit and debt, the recession and taxes, while there is little talk about the war that continues to exacerbate those problems. Sure, there is plenty that they should be held accountable for, but their support for the war seems to remain under the radar.

If the war ended right now, only the defense contractors would be hurt. We could refocus our resources on the American people who are hurting and on American problems, such as energy alternatives and retraining workers for the 21st century economy.

If we want to avoid what could turn into a decades-long conflict, we should bring the troops home from Afghanistan now and work out a negotiated settlement between the Afghan government and the Taliban. The agreement would bar support of terrorist training camps, the existence of which was our main reason for attacking in the first place.

If the two sides can't come to a settlement, then let them fight it out. It is not our problem. We have enough of them right here at home, and they will be a lot easier to solve without a war.

Cary Brunswick, of Oneonta, is a freelance writer and editor. He can be reached at brunswick@earthling.net.