Osama bin Laden is dead. You may have heard. There's a major groundswell underway to force a rethink of the Afghanistan War in the aftermath, but some in Washington, D.C. refuse to change course. Case in point, here's Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, failing to seize the opportunity to change direction in her remarks about Bin Laden's death and the war:
In Afghanistan, we will continue taking the fight to al Qaeda and their Taliban allies, while working to support the Afghan people as they build a stronger government and begin to take responsibility for their own security... Our message to the Taliban remains the same. You cannot wait us out, you cannot defeat us, but you can make the choice to abandon al Qaeda and participate in a peaceful political process."
Translation: Business as usual in Afghanistan, move along. Her remarks promise more of the same broken policies that have kept us mired in the Afghan much for a decade now. Clinton's tough talk and saber-rattling at the Taliban in her full remarks won't lead to real reconciliation or clear the paths for peace talks, and it won't bring troops any closer to home. That's not where most Americans were while Bin Laden was still at large, and it's certainly not where they are now that he's gone, as evidenced this week by the tens of thousands of people signing our petition to bring troops home.
Think about it. al Qaeda is driven from Afghanistan, according to General Petraeus. Osama bin Laden is dead. How do you justify to the American people the continued deployment of their loved ones in Afghanistan and the $2 billion we're spending to occupy the country?
Are you going to sell them on the benefits of supporting the corrupt, feckless Karzai Administration?
Will the American people suddenly turn around and support a massive troop deployment they already opposed in huge numbers while Bin Laden was still at large?
We doubt it.
Secretary Clinton may be trying to look tough, but she and the others failing to see bin Laden's death as a major pivot point are severely out of step with the people they're supposed to represent.
When news broke that President Obama was about to announce the killing of Osama bin Laden, we posted the following on our Rethink Afghanistan Facebook page:
President Obama is about to announce Osama bin Laden is dead. Click 'like' if you think it's time to get the troops home.
About 2,000 people clicked "Like" within 12 hours.
After the president finished his speech, we launched a "Bring the Troops Home" petition on RethinkAfghanistan.com, urging the president to use this moment as a pivot point to begin a swift troop withdrawal. Within a day, we already had 20,000 signers, and that number continues to grow rapidly. The petition has been featured and debated in the media, including The New York Times, MSNBC, CBS, and other outlets. This rapid outpouring of desire to see troops brought home following Bin Laden's death shows that people want the Afghanistan War wrapped up, not extended until 2014.
The pro-Afghanistan-War dead-enders are busy behind the scenes in Washington trying to prevent any serious rethinking of the occupation of Afghanistan, even though the counterinsurgency campaign wasn't responsible for bin Laden's capture or killing, nor has it brought the promised security for the Afghan people. But, inertia is a powerful force, and unless we continue to keep the pressure on to start real troop withdrawals, these bitter-enders will persuade elites in Washington that nothing needs to change.
Maintaining the status quo in Afghanistan would be both a policy and a political disaster for our country. Insurgent violence continues to rise at an extraordinary rate year after year, and it's clear that the counterinsurgency campaign is failing. Meanwhile, Americans all over the country are asking the same question as Spc. William Baxter, a parachute rigger with the 101st Sustainment Brigade:
"OK, he's dead, can we go home?" he asked.
With Americans rightly expecting this war to end, the answer better be, "Yes."
If you're ready to see troops come home after the death of Osama Bin Laden, sign our petition to start troop withdrawals.