One Year After Bin Laden's Death, Bring the Troops
by Kevin Martin and Michael Eisenscher
May 2, 2012
Today marks one year since the death of Osama bin Laden.
The CIA estimates there are fewer than 100 al Qaeda
operatives in Afghanistan. Since `getting Bin Laden' and
defeating al Qaeda were the stated reasons the U.S.
invaded Afghanistan in 2001, President Barack Obama
should use the anniversary to announce the end of the
U.S. war in Afghanistan.
Instead, his administration has negotiated an agreement
with President Hamid Karzai's government for a U.S.
presence in that country until at least 2024, ten years
past the supposed date for withdrawal of U.S. combat
troops. The U.S. and its NATO allies are supposed to
commit to ongoing training of the Afghan military, as
well as development aid. Obama swept into Afghanistan in
the middle of the night to sign the agreement, but full
details of the agreement remain secret.
U.S. troops would also still have a limited combat role,
namely Special Forces counter-insurgency operations,
according to a draft proposal described by Admiral Bill
McRaven, the head of U.S. special operations. A more
detailed security plan will surely be discussed at the
upcoming NATO Summit in Chicago.
If the agreement covers a ten year period, commits U.S.
military forces for training and counter-insurgency
(which means inevitable combat), obligates the U.S. to
continue providing billions of taxpayer dollars annually
in aid (essentially bankrolling the entire Afghan
government and military), and posits support for any
number of "nation-building" measures, isn't this in fact
a treaty, subject to U.S. Senate ratification, rather
than an intergovernmental memorandum of agreement?
Karzai apparently feels obligated to take the agreement
to his parliament for approval. Doesn't Obama have a
similar obligation - one imposed by the U.S.
Constitution?It's not clear what the year since the
killing of Bin Laden has done to improve U.S. or Afghan
security. It's even less clear what staying for another
dozen years will do for either country.
Quite apart from these legal, "process" questions, does
anyone think our staying until 2024 is going to bring
peace and stability to Afghanistan? We've already been
there for eleven years - the longest war in our
country's history. What do we really have to show for
it? We've spent almost $523 billion. Almost 2000
Americans have been killed and another 15,300 wounded.
1000 NATO troops have lost their lives.
Staying through 2024 will be a hard sell to the majority
of Americans. According to last week's Pew Research
public opinion poll, only about a third of those polled
think U.S. troops should stay in Afghanistan "until the
situation there is stabilized" (whatever that means).
About two-thirds of Obama supporters, and almost as many
swing voters (who make up nearly a quarter of the
electorate), want a swift withdrawal of U.S. troops,
while Mitt Romney supporters are split just about
It's hard to imagine public support increasing for this
mission, especially considering the ongoing cost.
Cities and states around the country face budget crises
and are severely cutting all manner of public services.
In 2012 alone, states had a combined shortfall of $169.3
billion, which resulted in spending cuts of $135.8
billion and tax increases of $21.4 billion. That has
translated into deep cuts in public services at the very
time when tens of millions need them most. How many
more lives and how much more treasure will another 12
years in Afghanistan cost us?
Congressional support for ending the war rapidly is
growing, and will be manifest by upcoming votes in the
House of Representatives on the Defense Authorization
Bill, as well as in other forms of Congressional
communication to the president. Congress is unlikely to
cut off funding for the war, but the administration
would do well to heed the rising bipartisan tide for
ending it sooner rather than later.
The May 20-22 NATO Summit in Chicago provides a great
opportunity to devise plans to withdraw all foreign
troops while fulfilling non-military humanitarian
assistance and support for human and minority rights,
especially for women's rights in Afghanistan.
As the 15,000 delegates from alliance countries gather
for the official confab at McCormick Place, tens of
thousands of peace advocates will descend on Chicago to
give voice to the demands of the pro-peace majority in
the U.S. While there have been, and will continue to be,
debates about security, First Amendment rights, and
inconvenience to Chicagoans, such atmospherics should
not obscure the real issues of U.S./NATO military
policy, especially as it relates to the present and
future military occupation of Afghanistan.
It's not clear what the year since the killing of Bin
Laden has done to improve U.S. or Afghan security. It's
even less clear what staying for another dozen years
will do for either country. The time to bring U.S.
forces home is now, not 2014, and certainly not 2024.
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