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Why the War in Afghanistan Must End.
(Photo by Tech. Sgt. Christopher Marasky, U.S. Army)

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Why the War in Afghanistan Must End.

Mounting costs, loss of human lives, and uniform unpopularity means making a peace deal with the Taliban is essential.

After the news that President Donald Trump canceled peace talks with Afghanistan’s Taliban leaders at Camp David, the reactions were tense from both the left and the right. Democratic Senator Bob Menendez called it “another example of the Trump administration’s foreign policy, which is a high-wire act that ultimately is focused on Trump as a persona, but not in the strategic, methodical effort of creating peace.” Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger said on Twitter, “Never should leaders of a terrorist organization that hasn’t renounced 9/11 and continue in evil be allowed in our great country. Never. Full stop.” Many in the Republican and Democratic Party disagreed or were outright angered by these talks.

For our troops to return home and end the war, however, the President must sign a peace deal with the Taliban—and America must back him up. The almost 18-year-old war has gone far enough. The President will have to make a peace deal eventually. He made a campaign promise to do so, the polls demonstrate that the people want it, the Democratic Party is tactfully waging a political push to end the war, and certainly last but not least, he has to consider the economic and human cost.

For our troops to return home and end the war, however, the President must sign a peace deal with the Taliban—and America must back him up. The almost 18-year-old war has gone far enough.

THE UNPOPULAR FRONT

During the 2016 presidential election, then-candidate Donald Trump promised to withdraw troops from Afghanistan because it’s such “a mess.” However, once he took office, the Trump administration deployed another 3,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan, which brought the 11,000 U.S. troops already serving in Afghanistan to a total of at least 14,000 troops.

In part, this lack of decisiveness can be excused because public polls have shown that the war in Afghanistan has had mixed reactions amongst voters. In a Gallup poll taken in February, 2014, more Americans viewed the war as a mistake than not. But another Gallup poll, published September 11, 2014 found that 52% of Americans believed the war in Afghanistan was not a mistake—compared to 43% who believed it was.

The tide is definitely changing, however. The Rasmussen Reports, published August 13, 2019, showed that “fewer voters than ever saw Afghanistan as important to America’s well-being, but most still stop short of supporting a complete troop withdrawal.” The survey conducted by YouGov, which was commissioned by the Charles Koch Institute and RealClearPolitics, found that the general public questioned worthiness of the war in Afghanistan. They want the U.S. to pull troops out of country, and to exercise more restraint generally when it comes to involving the nation in war.

This sentiment is being echoed by our political opponents. During the Democratic presidential debate in mid September, Senator Elizabeth Warren promised to pull troops out of Afghanistan immediately, even without a peace deal in place. She replied that military officials struggled on what winning means in Afghanistan “because the problems in Afghanistan are not problems that can be solved by a military.” Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Andrew Yang’s answers were similar. The Democratic presidential frontrunner, Joe Biden, also agreed on pulling the vast majority of troops out of Afghanistan, and narrowly focus our foreign policy on Al-Qaeda and ISIS.

Americans are increasingly troubled by our presence in Afghanistan—and decisive action will soon be necessary.

Why the War in Afghanistan Must End.

(Photo by Cpl. Alfred V. Lopez, U.S. Marine Corps)

THE MOUNTING TOLL

The cost of the war is a major reason for making a peace deal in Afghanistan. According to the 2011 Defense Budget, the estimate for the cost of deploying one US soldier in Afghanistan is over $1 million a year. In total, the war has cost Americans between $45 billion and $52 billion per year. In March 2019, the US Department of Defense released a report that estimated the costs to each United States taxpayer for each of the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. The estimated fiscal obligations of $737,592,000,000 has been incurred expended between 2001 and 2018 in Afghanistan, at a cost of $3,714 per taxpayer. For 2019, the US Department of Defense requested around $46,300,000,000 for Operation Freedom’s Sentinel (codename for the continued War in Afghanistan) and Related Missions.

This war has cost us so much—and we have little to show for it. True courage would be recognizing when it’s time to move on.

Some 2,400 American soldiers have lost their lives in Afghanistan, with an overall estimate of 69,698 total people killed. The cost of human life is best understood by this country’s veterans, who have shown their dissatisfaction with the war in more ways than one. In a recent poll taken by Concerned Veterans for America over 60% of American veterans indicated that they would favor a decision by the President to remove all troops from Afghanistan. In an opinion piece for the Washington Examiner, Dan Caldwell, senior adviser with Concerned Veterans for America, argued that election results amongst veterans in 2016 demonstrated this: “You saw that some counties that he [President Trump] flipped for Republicans in 2016 had higher levels of residents who were killed in action or wounded in action. And that you saw that those voters and their families were more inclined for President Trump.”

This war has cost us so much—and we have little to show for it. True courage would be recognizing when it’s time to move on.

Why the War in Afghanistan Must End.

(Photo by Spc. Markus Bowling)

THE TIME IS RIPE

Starting in July, 2018, American officials secretly met Taliban members at their political office in Qatar, signalling intensified efforts to resolve the war in Afghanistan by the Trump administration. Over 13 months of peace talks between the U.S. and the Taliban bought an agreement between the two parties, pending final approval by the President. Those peace talks were canceled, however, because a Taliban attack killed an American soldier.

It’s high time we clearly discern where our national security priorities are: rogue terrorist groups like the Taliban, or foreign nations seeking to expand their hold over the world?

On September 18, 2019, the Taliban stated that their “doors are open,” should President Trump want to resume peace talks in the future. And we should take them up on it.

After almost two decades of war in Afghanistan, the Afghan people overwhelmingly support a peaceful and political end to the war. There are grassroots peace movements in Afghanistan, which cascaded in March, 2018, after a number of sit-ins and a hunger strike in Helmand province. Protesters demanded both sides implement a ceasefire.

The rapid rise of the grassroots peace movement was in part because of parallel developments in the Afghan peace process: President Ghani’s offer to the Taliban on February 28; a series of high-profile conferences that have consolidated support for peace among Afghan religious scholars and key international officials; and a three day ceasefire between the Afghan government and the Taliban across Afghanistan this month to celebrate the Eid holiday. Because the movement started in an overwhelmingly Pashtun area that was largely controlled by the Taliban, it has benefited from the support of Pashtuns living across the border in Pakistan. At the broadest level, the peace movement in Afghanistan owes its success to widespread war-weariness among the Afghan population. It has simmered for years, but rarely been as visible as it is now.

The war in Afghanistan must end. The general public supports ending the war. Political pressure from both the Republican and Democratic parties is mounting, as is the unfathomable economic and human cost. It’s high time we clearly discern where our national security priorities are: rogue terrorist groups like the Taliban, or foreign nations seeking to expand their hold over the world?

It is high time we deal for peace.

Written By

Mark Everette is a political commentator.

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