Almost 5 years ago, I resigned from the State Department over America’s failing war in Afghanistan. As a veteran of the Iraq War, I failed to see either the value or the worth in continuing to risk America’s blood and treasure on continuing America’s longest war. Today, after President Obama announced this week that nearly 10,000 troops will remain in Afghanistan next year and many won’t be home until 2017, I am left with the exact same feeling.
By continuing the war for more than two more years, these plans ignore the simple truth that there is no military solution to the challenges that remain in Afghanistan. There is nothing that 10,000 troops will do in two years that 100,000 could not do in the past 13.
The U.S. war in Afghanistan, now in its 13th year, has cost our nation dearly. More than 2,300 Americans – over 1,600 alone since I resigned in 2009 – and tens of thousands of Afghans have lost their lives. Many, many more have been wounded and will bear the scars of battle for decades to come. Like the Iraq War, Afghanistan has been financed on our nation’s credit card, adding nearly $800 billion to our debt, with billions more to come. And yet the war is not yet over.
The U.S. intervened in Afghanistan after the attacks on September 11. Al Qaeda’s leadership was driven from Afghanistan more than a decade ago, and Osama bin Laden has been dead for more than three years. Yet the war drags on. Our men and women in uniform have done everything asked of them, and now they deserve to come home. As President Obama has said himself, a lasting solution to nearly four decades of conflict in Afghanistan will depend on Afghans and their neighbors reaching political settlement, not U.S. military personnel.
While the President has once again pledged to continue winding down the war, there is no reason to wait two-and-a-half more years for an end that can come in a matter of weeks. Americans have made it clear time and time again that they want our troops to come home, now. But Washington is full of voices that want to keep fighting for years to come. After the President’s announcement, Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Kelly Ayotte, decried the President’s plan as a ‘monumental mistake’ for refusing to keep the war going, bemoaning the President’s ‘arbitrary date.’ For some, even 15 years of war in Afghanistan isn’t enough.
We have to answer back and say enough is enough. If progressives don’t stand up and demand we bring our troops home now, no one will. Together, we can stand up and say that two more years of war is two years too many.