Time for a New Strategy in Afghanistan
Pentagon officials and pundits enjoy telling us that if we stay the course we can still win the war in Afghanistan. This argument directly contradicts the facts. Ten years and over $500 billion later, the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan isn’t working. This strategy doesn’t require more patience – or more blood and treasure. It needs to be changed.
However, Defense Department officials are sticking to the company line. Every year DOD reports to Congress on progress in Afghanistan. This year’s report, released last week, was largely overlooked, partly because of media flurry surrounding the US-Afghan Strategic Agreement, and partly because there’s really no news here – the new report sounds very similar to previous reports.
“We continue to build on that progress [made since last year’s report]. Challenges remain.” said Assistant Secretary of Defense Captain John Kirby. In other words, DOD says that the strategy is working – if we keep funding the war, we just might win.
Defense officials are backed up by analysts who argue that “with patience on all sides, we can still reach a tolerable outcome.” Of course, supporters of extending the war rarely mention that their policy recommendations will cost billions of dollars and the lives of U.S. soldiers.
The current strategy isn’t just expensive; it’s also ineffective. IED attacks set a record high last year. Millions of dollars are being wasted on unsustainable reconstruction projects. Afghan soldiers are turning on NATO counterparts. Most disturbingly, the real news about the Afghanistan war doesn’t make it back to the American public.
Despite efforts to hide the fact that there’s been no real progress, Americans know a failed strategy when they see one. The latest public opinion poll shows that two-thirds of respondents disapprove of the US-Afghan Strategic Agreement, which commits billions of aid dollars to Afghanistan and allows for a U.S. military presence in Afghanistan for the next ten years.
Ten years is long enough. Rather than wasting another $500 billion on an unnecessary war, we should be investing in programs that really matter.