Last week, to howls and cries from neo-conservatives, President Obama announced a limited withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan over the next 15 months.
President Barack Obama announced Wednesday night that all the 33,000 additional U.S. forces he ordered to Afghanistan in December 2009 will be home within 15 months.
In a nationally televised address from the East Room of the White House, Obama said 10,000 of the “surge” forces would withdraw by the end of this year, and the other 23,000 would leave Afghanistan by September 2012.
This withdrawal should not have come as a surprise; he advised of his plans 18 months ago.
So after 15 months, we will still have a substantial occupying force in Afghanistan. After draw-down is complete, the total U.S. military deployment in Afghanistan will still be nearly 70,000 troops.
Nevertheless, my Congressman, Republican Mike Rogers, saw fit to, not only criticize the President’s decision, but cynically impugn his motives:
The sacrifices our brave men and women in uniform have made in Afghanistan have helped bring greater stability there, and must not be jeopardized by any withdrawal plan based on political expediency and not the real-world decisions of our commanders on the ground.
We have been in Afghanistan for 10 years. How long should we stay? When would be an appropriate time?
Congressman, there are many reasons to make this decision wholly apart from “political expediency.” For instance, in addition to the human loss (2554 US and coalition deaths in Afghanistan alone), the fiscal costs are unsustainable. In support of bringing the troops home, the conservative Future of Freedom Foundation stated:
The occupation of Afghanistan costs $10 billion a month. The Iraq and Afghanistan wars have now cost more than $1 trillion, and these money pits are still in operation. Let that sink in: The government has a $14 trillion debt. Annual budget deficits are running at more than $1 trillion a year. Congress and the president are wrangling over whether to raise the debt ceiling. And the government is spending $10 billion a month in Afghanistan alone.
If this were a movie, you’d dismiss it as ridiculous beyond belief. Yet our “leaders” expect us to accept this as reasonable, reassured that wise people in power know what they are doing. If it seems screwy, you must be an “isolationist” or uninformed.
If there is a criticism of the President, please address why we should not bring the more troops home more rapidly. I mean the president has not exactly shown himself to be an antiwar radical nor a lover of civil liberty. Greenwald summarizes his recent actions well:
In just the past two months alone (all subsequent to the killing of Osama bin Laden), the U.S. Government has taken the following steps in the name of battling the Terrorist menace: extended the Patriot Act by four years without a single reform; begun a new CIA drone attack campaign in Yemen; launched drone attacks in Somalia; slaughtered more civilians in Pakistan; attempted to assassinate U.S. citizen Anwar Awlaki far from any battlefield and without a whiff of due process; invoked secrecy doctrines to conceal legal memos setting forth its views of its own domestic warrantless surveillance powers; announced a “withdrawal”plan for Afghanistan that entails double the number of troops in that country as were there when Obama was inaugurated; and invoked a very expansive view of its detention powers under the 2001 AUMF by detaining an alleged member of al-Shabab on a floating prison, without charges, Miranda warnings, or access to a lawyer. That’s all independent of a whole slew of drastically expanded surveillance powers seized over the past two years in the name of the same threat.
And “real-world decisions?” In the real world, does our War in Afghanistan effectively deal with Terrorism or actually make it more likely. A well stated here:
Of course, just in case those propagandistic claims aren’t sufficient — we must wage war in multiple countries and seize ever-expanding surveillance powers to stop this group of two dozen Terrorist masterminds — the U.S. is doing everything possible to ensure that Terrorism remains as large as a threat as possible:
A NATO air strike has killed at least 14 civilians, including eight children, in the eastern Afghan province of Khost, local police say. . . .The deadly air raid came a day after two children were reportedly killed in a separate air strike in southwest Ghazni province.
The killing of civilians by foreign troops is a major source of friction between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his Western backers, and has soured the feelings of many ordinary Afghans towards foreign forces. . . . As violence has spread across the country, casualties have risen, and the United Nations said May was the deadliest month for civilians since they began keeping records four years earlier.
So Congressman Rogers, please encourage the President to bring the troops home as quickly and safely as possible.