In 2012, 2/3rds of U.S. Americans, and even more liberals, favored getting out of Afghanistan as soon as possible. The logic goes something like this: the war was bungled from the beginning and should be wrapped up immediately, thus avoiding more death and destruction-- in short, to prevent another Vietnam. President Obama, since his campaign in 2008, has been committed to withdrawing troops by the end of 2014.
On the other side of the aisle, a dwindling number of conservatives think leaving Afghanistan is a terrible mistake. They cite the need to look strong in the eyes of our adversaries, maintain our global hold on power, and squash the threat of terrorism in the region as three important factors in remaining in Afghanistan and in the region. But it is liberals who should be outraged about the U.S. slinking out of Afghanistan, but for entirely different reasons. The following are three truly liberal issues that Afghanistan is soon to face as the U.S. and NATO pack up their tanks and planes and head home.
1. History is against us
Liberals, and many conservatives, are wary that Afghanistan is the new Vietnam, reasoning that the sooner we're out, the better. But we need not look back further than 1989, when the USSR withdrew from Afghanistan after an 11-year occupation. A massive civil war followed. Eventually the Taliban wrested control of the broken, destitute country and ushered in a reign of oppression. Signs abound that this time around things are likely to play out in a similarly disastrous way -- the current, weak, quasi-western-friendly government of Hamid Karzai will fall and a more ruthless and dictatorial one will take its place.
Security is a concern regionally, as well. India and Pakistan have, for decades, been jockeying against one another to control Afghanistan and its resources. If Afghanistan is torn apart by another civil war, it will have little say in the geopolitical struggle for regional hegemony between Pakistan and India. It is thus likely to end up domestically tumultuous and regionally exploited.
2. Economic obliteration is assured
The World Bank figures that 97 percent of Afghanistan's GDP comes directly from foreign aid and in country spending by foreign troops. Factor in the outrageously corrupt Karzai government -- Transparency International says more than $1 billion in aid to Afghanistan has been stolen in the last 8 years -- and Afghanistan is left standing on the precipice of complete economic collapse. A similar series of events happened after the USSR left in 1989, leaving Afghanistan completely reliant on foreign aid. The U.S. is committed to sustaining aid through at least 2015, but without troops on the ground to ensure at least some of the money gets to the people who need it, those at the top will continue to get very rich, while the rest of the country suffers.
3. Human rights abuses will increase substantially
The top NATO commander remains "cautiously optimistic" that Afghan security forces will be able to control Afghanistan after troops exit in 2014. Forgetting for a moment the history of the USSR withdrawal and ensuing civil war, Afghan troops today are woefully unprepared to maintain internal security or protect human rights. And the Taliban are biding their time, waiting in the wings to pounce on a weak, helpless Kabul.
Taliban resurgence remains a real threat. Afghanistan in the 1990s, under the Taliban, saw near genocide like massacres, human trafficking, and the oppression of women like no other regime in modern history. Girls were forbidden from attending school. Women were forbidden from leaving their homes without being escorted by a male family member and were routinely beaten in public for minor offenses. To top it off, the Taliban has close ties with al Qaeda, the very terrorist organization we've ostensibly been fighting in the region for the last 12 years.
Taliban resurgence could immediately undo any improvements made under U.S. occupation, as could economic collapse, civil war and regional instability. This piece is not an endorsement of the war. Nor is it a desire to see soldiers sit on their hands in Afghanistan ad infinitum. Instead, it is a call to liberals everywhere to recognize the current situation in Afghanistan for what it is: dire. It is an opinion that with targeted efforts and soldiers with a background not in war but in economic development, in job training, and in rebuilding Afghanistan, the U.S. can become a positive presence in the region. Afghanistan is filled with people, real people, whose future is grim, unless we do something about it. Surely that's a cause every liberal (and conservative) can get behind.