“There is little connection between the fighting and dying being done by our young men and women in Afghanistan’s valleys, farmlands and cities and keeping our nation safe from a terrorist attack,”
-Rep. James McGovern (D- MA) and Matthew Hoh, “Change course in Afghanistan,” The Worcester Daily Gazette, 7/20/11
Rep. McGovern, a Massachusetts Representative, and Matthew Hoh, former Marine Corps Captain and State Department official in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as a board member of the Council for a Livable World, describe President Obama’s strategy to withdraw 33,000 troops from Afghanistan by summer 2012 as “insufficient.” The 18-month plan does not reflect the domestic debt crisis or U.S. goals and capabilities in Afghanistan.
McGovern and Hoh make the case that U.S. national security is intertwined with economic security, and, therefore, the strategy is not responsible or realistic. Though Congress is embroiled in a battle over cutting spending, the government continues to borrow nearly $10 billion a month to pay for the war, adding to the debt. “Where is the sense in borrowing money to build a bridge or school in Afghanistan that later gets blown up – while telling our cities and towns that we have no money to help them with their needs?” Though development efforts in Afghanistan are worthy, at what cost to U.S. lives and economic or national security?
The U.S. invaded Afghanistan to ensure that the Taliban would no longer provide a safe haven for Al-Qaeda. Today, Al-Qaeda has been almost entirely uprooted from Afghanistan, and the operation to kill Osama Bin Laden proved that neither 100,000 nor 70,000 troops are necessary to weaken the organization. After 2012, roughly 70,000 U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan (with gradual withdrawal) and will continue to fight for a mission they have already completed.
Beyond the original aim, the U.S. has undertaken social, political and economic development to attempt to leave Afghanistan with peace, a functional government and human rights protections. However, many Afghanistan experts have argued that the only solution is political. The President should be encouraging a negotiated settlement and bringing the troops home now, McGovern and Hoh write. Despite high hopes, the U.S. military cannot “advance the cause of peace, protect the rights of women and ethnic minorities, or strengthen civil society,” and they will lose their lives trying.
There is no space for compromise or a middle course, and no more time to debate this issue, the writers maintain. This spring was the deadliest spring in the ten years that the U.S. has been in Afghanistan. “We don’t need to wait 18 more months to change course. We need to do it now.”