There comes a time when one must say, "Enough is Enough!" ¡Basta!
The mother of Lance Cpl. Gregory T. Buckley, the 1,990th casualty of the Afghanistan War who may have been killed by a member of the Afghan forces he was training, said so about a year ago: "Our forces shouldn't be there. It should be over. It's done. No more."
U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, (R-Fl), the senior Republican in the House of Representatives and the chairman of the influential House Appropriations Committee Defense Subcommittee, said so when he received a letter sent by a young Army Ranger pretty much predicting his own senseless death in Afghanistan. The 81-year-old Republican Congressman who had consistently voted against troop withdrawals from Afghanistan "or even for setting a timetable for troop withdrawal," said, after receiving the soldier's letter, "I think we should remove ourselves from Afghanistan as quickly as we can. I just think we're killing kids that don't need to die."
Not saying those words, but still expressing outrage and frustration, even the American commander in Afghanistan, Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., upon hearing Afghan president Hamid Karzai slander and accuse our troops and our country of colluding with the Taliban "to sow fears in order to prolong the presence of international troops in Afghanistan," said:
We have fought too hard over the past 12 years. We have shed too much blood over the past 12 years. We have done too much to help the Afghan Security Forces grow over the last 12 years to ever think that violence or instability would be to our advantage.
Also not saying those exact words, but nevertheless telling it like it is, Maj. Gen. Peter Fuller, the then No. 2 general in charge of training Afghan troops and police, reacting to Karzai 's "God forbid, if ever there is a war between Pakistan and America, Afghanistan will side with Pakistan," and calling the Afghan leaders ungrateful and "isolated from reality" said:
"Why don't you just poke me in the eye with a needle! You've got to be kidding me. I'm sorry, we just gave you $11.6 billion and now you're telling me, I don't really care?"
You can teach a man how to fish, or you can give them a fish... We're giving them fish while they're learning, and they want more fish! (They say,) `I like swordfish, how come you're giving me cod?' Guess what? Cod's on the menu today.
I said the "then" No. 2 general, because a few weeks later Maj. Gen. Fuller was relieved of command by Marine Gen. John R. Allen.
For whatever it's worth this author felt we had accomplished our mission in Afghanistan when we took out Osama Bin Laden and after virtually destroying the al-Qaeda leadership in Afghanistan and many Taliban leaders.
I felt that it should be over when our more-than-10-year presence did not seem to diminish the atrocities against women in Afghanistan, sometimes committed "directly under the noses" of the Afghan government and the international community, sometimes committed in places in Afghanistan where one might expect that our presence, influence and efforts would bring some change, some enlightenment and would at least prevent such atrocities.
I felt that way when I mourned our 2,000th death in a war that should have been over and when I asked, "Who Will Be the 3,000th American Soldier to Die in the Afghanistan War?"
I felt exasperated -- sick to my stomach -- when I read, and wrote, about the despicable crimes committed against young boys by wealthy and prominent Afghans and by "members of Afghanistan's security forces, who receive training and weapons from the U.S.-led coalition." Crimes that are said to be "on the rise in post-Taliban Afghanistan." Crimes about which Dee Brillenburg Wurth, a child-protection expert at the U.N. mission in Afghanistan, said, "Like it or not, there was better rule of law under the Taliban...They saw it as a sin, and they stopped a lot of it."
I felt more and more so with every report that our troops were being murdered in increasing numbers and frequency in so-called "green-on-blue" attacks by the very same Afghan security forces who we are helping, training and fighting alongside, supposedly against a common enemy.
I expressed concern, among other, about rampant corruption and backstabbing at the highest levels in the Afghanistan government, incompetence of and disloyalty among its military and police and continuing human rights violations.
I was shocked when I read that at least 22 Afghan children died -- froze to death -- in wretched refugee camps near Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, in the winter of 2012, and that the French Solidarités International, a French group that has had a limited program of emergency food aid and sanitation in the camps, surveyed mortality rates in recent months and came to the harrowing conclusion that, among children under 5, the camps' death rate is 144 per 1,000 children.
At the time I said:
Those who claim that we are making progress in Afghanistan generally point to the schools we have built and other "infrastructure projects" (Let's not forget the $60 million prison we built at Bagram Air Base), at a cost of hundreds of billions of dollars.
That is all good and well. However, Americans need to raise the same question the [New York] Times poses:
"After 10 years of a large international presence, comprising about 2,000 aid groups, at least $3.5 billion of humanitarian aid and $58 billion of development assistance, how could children be dying of something as predictable -- and manageable -- as the cold?"
Of course I am conflicted about what will happen to innocent Afghan men, women and children when we leave Afghanistan.
When discussing the horrible freezing deaths of those babies and children I said:
For those of us who believe that we should get out of Afghanistan, there is the sad conundrum:
If we stay longer in Afghanistan, will we be able to save these children?
If we leave Afghanistan now, will more children die?
And I have to go back to the words of regional expert Christine Fair who told CNN in the wake of the public execution of the Afghan woman accused of adultery (She was shot nine times "right under our noses"): "We can ask the question what will happen when we leave, but let's remember that this is actually happening while we're still there."
But all this is just lil' ol' me.
Fortunately, President Obama has already committed to ending our military involvement in Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
On Tuesday, the New York Times reported:
Increasingly frustrated by his dealings with President Hamid Karzai, President Obama is giving serious consideration to speeding up the withdrawal of United States forces from Afghanistan and to a "zero option" that would leave no American troops there after next year, according to American and European officials.
Yesterday, I received a message from Jon Soltz, Iraq War Veteran and Chairman of VoteVets.org:
We cannot want a democratic, stable Afghanistan more than the government and the people in Afghanistan. Ultimately, whether their nation survives is up to them, and keeping our troops there doesn't change that equation.
The only thing that changes, day-by-day, is the number of American men and women we've lost.
Along with Soltz, I know that President Obama will face a lot of opposition, but in my heart and in my mind I feel that we have done enough in Afghanistan and, along with the brave Gold Star Mother of Lance Cpl. Gregory T. Buckley, I say, "It should be over. It's done. No more."
Lead image: U.S. soldiers watch from the rear ramp of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter while flying over the mountains in the Khas Uruzgan district of Afghanistan's Uruzgan province, March 16, 2013. The soldiers are crew chiefs, who along with Afghan commandos, provided security for a government-led shura, or meeting. (Photo DOD)