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With No End Game in Sight, the Time Has Come to Rethink Afghanistan

Posted by ZP Heller on February 5th, 2009

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There is no “end game” strategy for the war in Afghanistan. That is what a military official told President Obama last week, according to an NBC report cited by Think Progress’ Faiz Shakir yesterday. In other words, the ultimate outcome for our military presence in Afghanistan is unclear, not just to the activists and bloggers who have been wrestling with this war at Get Afghanistan Right, but to those inside the Pentagon as well. If we have any chance of avoiding further catastrophe in the region, we better make damn sure we Rethink Afghanistan.

That is exactly what Brave New Foundation is calling for in a new campaign launched today. They will hold a series of debates on the issues surrounding this war in the coming weeks, but currently they’re asking everyone to sign the petition urging Congressional oversight hearings like those held in 2007 regarding the Iraq war. Vice President Biden, who orchestrated the Iraq hearings as Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, said, “No foreign policy can be sustained in this country without the informed consent of the American people.” Isn’t informed public consent what we need now before committing more troops to Afghanistan?

Already, the Pentagon is backing away from the Bush administration’s ludicrous goals of building a lasting democracy in Afghanistan, the graveyard of empires. They plan instead to shift focus to eliminating Taliban and al-Qaeda safe havens and establishing regional stability between Afghanistan and Pakistan. And yet even this limited objective has the President requesting at least 10,000 more troops to the war-torn region–the first of several planned deployments. This escalation, according to a new report from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, will only sustain a Taliban resurgence that until now has thrived off of our military’s deeply unwelcomed presence. It will perpetuate a violent conflict while hurting our chances of effectively using reconstructive aid and diplomacy to help the suffering people of Afghanistan.

This war has been called a quagmire. It has been compared–by everyone from Brave New Films bloggers to Newsweek to Senator John Kerry–to the unwinnable war in Vietnam. And public support has begun to wane; a recent BBC/Harris poll indicated only 1/3 of Americans favor sending additional troops to Afghanistan. Perhaps that is because we are already war-weary after being misled into Iraq. Perhaps we are grasping the terrible casualty rate, considering 2008 was the bloodiest year of this war to date, both for our soldiers and Afghan civilians. Maybe we are beginning to connect the dots between the staggering costs of this war ($36 billion a year) and the inability to pull our country out of a recession that resulted in 2.3 million people facing foreclosure last year, and employment falling by 1.9 million in the last four months of 2008 alone.

Whatever the case, it is clear we must have informed public consensus before escalating this war. We must debate it online and in Congress until we’re blue in the face. We must rethink Afghanistan before committing more lives and dollars to a war without a discernible end game.

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