Seeking Responsible Policymakers on Afghanistan

Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s “Little America: The War Within the War for Afghanistan”, released today, lends new support to critiques of the Obama administration’s handling of the Afghanistan war. According to Little America, the administration squandered a chance to end the war by sidelining the Special representative for Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke, ignored the Vice President’s warnings against the counterinsurgency strategy, and dismissed a CIA report that the 30,000 troop surge had little measurable effect.

Little America is not the first source that gives a different perspective on the Afghanistan war than the one regularly portrayed in the media. Earlier this year Lt. Col. Danny Davis wrote in a ground-breaking article for the Armed Forces Journal that policymakers deliberately suppressed negative news about the war, selling the public a sanitized version of what is really going on in Afghanistan.

Chandrasekaran’s work is another window into how our Afghanistan policy went wrong. And it’s a useful reminder of how politics can have costly consequences. According to Little America, the administration’s flawed policy prolonged the war by several years, and cost American taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars.

After Little America it might feel right to place the blame for the unwinding of the Afghanistan war on the Obama administration. But let’s not forget about the other players here. Congress played, and continues to play, a huge role in U.S. policy on Afghanistan.

Unfortunately, many members of Congress, including fiscal conservatives, have dropped the ball on Afghanistan policy. Rather than supporting efforts to wind down the war, Congress has voted to extend it. Rather than working to make every aid dollar count, Congress has dragged their feet on improving aid oversight. Rather than finding ways to curtail war costs, Congress keeps approving requests to spend billions of dollars on the Afghanistan war each year.

Each week this year the U.S. is spending $2 billion per week on the Afghanistan war. Next year, we will spend be about $1.7 billion per week. Meanwhile, student loan interest rates are about to skyrocket, tax rates will spike starting in January, and out-of-control government spending means the U.S. national debt is approaching $16 trillion.

There are many better uses for taxpayer dollars than the war in Afghanistan. It’s time policymakers started listening to what taxpayers want: bring our troops and tax dollars home.

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