Last week, the New York Times in an article authored by James Dao and Andrew N. Lehren laid out the impact of the Afghan war on the families of those fighting in a way that only the Times is able to do. God bless the Times for the article and the published pictures of the 2,000 Americans who have died in that war defending our country. It is the longest war in our history. It started as most Americans will remember on 9/11/2001 when Osama bin Laden, then headquartered in Afghanistan under the protection of the Afghan Taliban government planned and executed the acts of terrorism -- blowing up the two World Trade Center towers in lower Manhattan, destroying part of the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. and seeking to destroy the Capitol with a third plane, which was recaptured by its passengers over Pennsylvania where it crashed. All together, 2,977 people were killed, not including the hijackers, 2,606 at the World Trade Center, 125 at the Pentagon and 246 on the four planes involved, including 40 passengers and crew who died in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
For nearly 11 years, we have waged war in Afghanistan and have had significant victories. Not long ago, our special forces Navy Seals killed Osama bin Laden, who was living in Pakistan apparently under the protection of the Pakistani Inter-service Intelligence (I.S.I.), our supposed ally. According to the C.I.A. director, now Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, we have through various means, including assassinations with the aid of drones, reduced the number of al-Qaeda personnel to less than 50 in Afghanistan. However, the Taliban now controls near half of the country and is able to effectively wage war against the combined American and Karzai government forces.
Our government has announced that we intend to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014 -- more than two years away -- after we have trained the Karzai government forces so they can defend their own country. The Karzai government, however, which is corrupt and has reportedly skimmed off billions of U.S. government monies intended for infrastructure and military supplies, does not have the support of the Afghan population except for his own Pashtun ethnic group, the largest in Afghanistan, and is unlikely to be able to defeat the Taliban.
The Taliban, a terrorist organization, apparently did and does have more of the hearts and minds of the Afghanis for the following possible reasons: (1) its religious fundamentalism, including the application of Sharia or Muslim religious law; (2) its lack of corruption or at least far less than that of Karzai's government; and (3) its better trained soldiers endowed with the strength of their own convictions. Why would we think it is our mission in life to keep the corrupt Karzai government in power? This is sheer madness stemming from our government deluding itself into thinking that we are protecting the American homeland by preventing the Taliban from taking over the Afghan government.
The people of Afghanistan, not just those supporting the Taliban, but those supporting Karzai, hate us. The immediate effect of that hate is demonstrated by the fact that the very people being trained in the Karzai army by American military trainers are killing those American military personnel. The Times article of August 21st reported,
But this year, another threat emerged: an intensified wave of attacks by Afghan security forces. In just the past two weeks, at least 9 Americans have been killed in such insider attacks. For the year to date, at least 40 NATO service members, most of them American, have been killed by either active members of the Afghan forces or attackers dressed in their uniforms -- already outstripping the toll from all last year.
An even worse indictment of our policy is that, according to the Times, "[m]ore active duty and reserve soldiers killed themselves last year, 278, than died in combat in Afghanistan, 247." They broke under the pressure of it all. Think of the many who thought of killing themselves and, thank God, did not, but are psychologically severely damaged.
Why are we still in Afghanistan? Apparently, we are there for the same reason the Obama administration hoped to stay in Iraq: to have a military base forever. While President Obama now points to our having gotten out of Iraq as a source of pride, we know had he had his druthers, he would have stayed forever, but the Iraqi government demanded we leave even before 2014. The Iraqi government is no friend of ours and is part of the conference of 40 nations now convening in Iran in a show of support for the Iranian regime. That regime is proceeding with its nuclear program, despite heavy international sanctions, and is continuing its call for wiping out Israel.
The Taliban is an enemy, but one without the ability to injure the U.S. were we to leave and it became the government. The countries with the ability to injure us physically here in the U.S. are Pakistan and ultimately Iran. Both of those countries also provide modern bases for terrorist networks. We are now approaching what happened in Vietnam when ultimately we fled Saigon. Remember the sight of helicopters lifting people from the roof of our embassy and flying them to carriers off the coast? Must we wait for that to happen here?
General Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was recently in Kabul conferring with General Allen, head of our forces in Afghanistan, trying to come up with a solution to the problem of Karzai soldiers shooting their American trainers. During his stay in Kabul, his plane, sitting on the tarmac in a highly secure area was attacked, forcing him to use another. The Times of August 19th described the meeting between Generals Dempsey and Allen as follows:
After months of military leaders' attempts to tamp down worries over the killings of American and NATO troops by the Afghan forces serving beside them, Gen. John R. Allen, the top commander in Afghanistan, called an urgent meeting of his generals last Wednesday to address the escalating death toll. In a room crowded with more than 40 commanders, the general underscored the need to quickly stop the bloodletting that is sapping morale, according to NATO officials, part of a new emphasis on protecting American and NATO forces after a spate of attacks that included the killing of six Marine trainers this month. In one of a series of recent steps, the military decreed that American and NATO service members should always carry a loaded magazine in their weapons, to save precious moments if attacked by Afghan forces. Another initiative, now a priority, is a program named 'Guardian Angel' that calls for one or two soldiers to monitor the Afghans during every mission or meeting, officials say. The 'angels,' whose identities are not disclosed to the Afghans, must be prepared to fire on anyone who tries to kill a coalition service member.
The Times article of August 21st quoted a Marine Colonel who said: "Everyone was shocked, including me, that we lost that many guys that quickly,' Colonel Morris said. 'But honestly, me and most of my Marines would have rather come home in body bags than let the Taliban claim a victory.'" America does not want its sons to come home in body bags. The American public wants them to come home alive and only sacrifice their lives to protect Americans. No, America weeps at the anguish of the mother of a Marine who was killed, quoted in the Times, " He was the most lovable, caring human being,' she said of her son. 'He wore his heart on his sleeve. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.'"
This morning, August 27th, Reuters reported,
[a] rogue Afghan soldier shot dead two U.S. troops in east Afghanistan on Monday, the NATO-led coalition said, the latest in a series of insider killings that have strained trust between the allies ahead of a 2014 pullout by foreign combat troops. The deaths in Laghman province brought to 12 the number of foreign soldiers killed this month, prompting NATO to increase security against insider attacks, including requiring soldiers to carry loaded weapons at all times on base.
Mr. President and Mr. Romney, why do both of you continue to support our remaining in Afghanistan? Please tell us why.