"We've always been at war with Eastasia," is in danger of becoming true as America continues to fight the longest war in its history -- surpassing Vietnam -- in Afghanistan. We are on the verge of being at war there longer than the Soviets were.
To what avail?
The vital interests of America in Afghanistan are nearly nill, and the continued occupation of and combat in Afghanistan isn't the way to protect them. Perhaps, quite the opposite.
More so than the the threat of Christian crackpots to burn Qurans being a goad that spurs recruits to join the Taliban and other terrorist organization like al-Qaeda and its myriad spin-offs and wannbes, unending counterinsurgency operation in Afghanistan do a better job of driving marginalized Muslims into the terrorists' arms.
We have not destroyed, much less dismantled the Taliban. Instead, we have driven al-Qaeda into Pakistan. We have not reduced the number of disparate though poorly funded terrorist groups in the Middle East. Instead, we have concentrated their minds and numbers in a more unified and organized set of groups that no longer quarrel amongst themselves but come together as one to oppose the enemy of their former enemies.
What have we succeeded in doing?
We have enjoyed our greatest success in harming our own economy and diverting our national attention away from more pressing domestic problems than the threat of terrorism emanating from Afghanistan.
In August of this year, the Afghanistan Study Group released its report, "A new Way Forward: Rethinking US Strategy in Afghanistan," launched by The New America Foundation yesterday and broadcast over C-Span today.
The prime take-away from the report and the presentation is that there is a major
disconnect between the stated rationale of protecting Americans from terrorism and the actual operational objectives of nation-building and defeating the Afghan Taliban.
If we will correctly acknowledge our ultimate goal is to prevent terrorist attacks against America, then we must similarly conclude that a U.S. military victory over the Taliban is not necessary to protect those interests.
We achieve that goal by rethinking our strategy on the basis of the following two points. America's national interests reside in
- preventing Afghanistan from being a "safe haven" from which Al Qaeda or other extremists can organize more effective attacks on the U.S. homeland; and
- ensuring that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal does not fall into hostile hands
How we are conducting our policy in Afghanistan is, at present, counterproductive to our best interests directly, in terms of preventing terrorist attacks; and indirectly, it is crippling our best interests in terms of the immense cost of this misadventure.
The tragedy is compound. Not only is the expedition costing the US Taxpayer $100 billion per year; it is costing lives -- our own and Afghan civilian lives; it is costing credibility -- we prop up a corrupt head of state and we endanger our relationships with other Muslim nations; it is sapping our military's ability to meet other potential threats; we paralyze Afghanistan in an endless civil war, which does nothing to promote civil rights (especially for women) or re-build a nation.
Our real interests in Afghanistan are limited and so should be our military footprint in that country. As in Iraq, it is time to withdraw most of our combat troops and replace our military presence with accelerated efforts to bring peace to that country as we disengage. We must increase the involvement of the international community in the effort to make Afghanistan a functioning and independent country, because terrorism most readily flourishes in failed states. Our present policies, if they continue, will only lead to creating another failed state.