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Archive for July, 2010

Posted by The Agonist on July 21st, 2010

From our partners at The Agonist

I question the Taliban’s rules of engagement and its treatment of captives.
I sometimes think the west’s biggest mistake is to judge the world by its standards
of civility. Perhaps we should adopt the practices of the Taliban.

Six Afghan police officers beheaded during raid, officials say
Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) — Taliban militants beheaded six Afghan police officers during a raid in northern Baghlan province, officials said Wednesday.

The militants had attacked a school, clinic and the district governor’s office in Dahanah-e Ghori.

They overran a police checkpoint and killed the six police officers, according to NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and Munshi Abdul Majid, the governor of Baghlan
http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/asiapcf/07/21/afghanistan.violence/index.html?hpt=T2

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Posted by DownWithTyranny on July 20th, 2010

From our partners at DownWithTyranny!


Yesterday I woke up early and Richard Haass was being interviewed on CNN. You probably remember the name as one of Secretary of State Colin Powell’s closest advisors. He’s also been the president of the Council on Foreign Relations for the past 7 years and wrote War of Necessity, War of Choice. He’s supposedly nonpartisan, although he advises both Republicans and Democrats but he’s mostly worked in various Bush administrations and there’s a real GOP smell around him. When I looked up his donation records I found only contributions to Republicans: Bush I, Bush II, McCain, Dole, Rick Lazio, Bill Frist… Come on; what does that smell like to you? But on CNN today he was being interviewed because of an article he had written for Newsweek on the War in Afghanistan: We’re Not Winning. It’s Not Worth It. Here’s how to draw down in Afghanistan. He starts with a defense of Steele’s clumsy attack on Obama’s Afghanistan policies– clumsy, but not inaccurate.

The war being waged by the United States in Afghanistan today is fundamentally different and more ambitious than anything carried out by the Bush administration. Afghanistan is very much Barack Obama’s war of choice, a point that the president underscored recently by picking Gen. David Petraeus to lead an intensified counterinsurgency effort there. After nearly nine years of war, however, continued or increased U.S. involvement in Afghanistan isn’t likely to yield lasting improvements that would be commensurate in any way with the investment of American blood and treasure. It is time to scale down our ambitions there and both reduce and redirect what we do.

The first thing we need to recognize is that fighting this kind of war is in fact a choice, not a necessity. The United States went to war in October 2001 to oust the Taliban government, which had allowed Al Qaeda to operate freely out of Afghanistan and mount the 9/11 attacks. The Taliban were routed; members of Al Qaeda were captured or killed, or escaped to Pakistan. But that was a very different war, a necessary one carried out in self-defense. It was essential that Afghanistan not continue to be a sanctuary for terrorists who could again attack the American homeland or U.S. interests around the world.

…Obama has had several opportunities to reassess U.S. goals and interests in Afghanistan, and in each instance he has chosen to escalate. Upon completion of that first review in March 2009, he declared that the U.S. mission would henceforth be “to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat Al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future.” But in reality the U.S. objective went beyond taking on Al Qaeda; the president announced in those same remarks that the additional U.S. troops being sent to Afghanistan would “take the fight to the Taliban in the south and the east, and give us a greater capacity to partner with Afghan security forces and to go after insurgents along the border.” In short, the return of the Taliban was equated with the return of Al Qaeda, and the United States became a full protagonist in Afghanistan’s civil war, supporting a weak and corrupt central government against the Taliban. Another 4,000 U.S. troops were sent, to train Afghan soldiers.

…Today the counterinsurgency strategy that demanded all those troops is clearly not working. The August 2009 election that gave Karzai a second term as president was marred by pervasive fraud and left him with less legitimacy than ever. While the surge of U.S. forces has pushed back the Taliban in certain districts, the Karzai government has been unable to fill the vacuum with effective governance and security forces that could prevent the Taliban’s return. So far the Obama administration is sticking with its strategy; indeed, the president went to great lengths to underscore this when he turned to Petraeus to replace Gen. Stanley McChrystal in Kabul. No course change is likely until at least December, when the president will find himself enmeshed in yet another review of his Afghan policy.

This will be Obama’s third chance to decide what kind of war he wants to fight in Afghanistan, and he will have several options to choose from, even if none is terribly promising. The first is to stay the course: to spend the next year attacking the Taliban and training the Afghan Army and police, and to begin reducing the number of U.S. troops in July 2011 only to the extent that conditions on the ground allow. Presumably, if conditions are not conducive, Petraeus will try to limit any reduction in the number of U.S. troops and their role to a minimum.

This approach is hugely expensive, however, and is highly unlikely to succeed. The Afghan government shows little sign of being prepared to deliver either clean administration or effective security at the local level. While a small number of Taliban might choose to “reintegrate”– i.e., opt out of the fight– the vast majority will not. And why should they? The Taliban are resilient and enjoy sanctuary in neighboring Pakistan, whose government tends to view the militants as an instrument for influencing Afghanistan’s future (something Pakistan cares a great deal about, given its fear of Indian designs there).

The economic costs to the United States of sticking to the current policy are on the order of $100 billion a year, a hefty price to pay when the pressure to cut federal spending is becoming acute. The military price is also great, not just in lives and matériel but also in distraction at a time when the United States could well face crises with Iran and North Korea. And the domestic political costs would be considerable if the president were seen as going back on the spirit if not the letter of his commitment to begin to bring troops home next year.

Yet Obama seems to be willing– if reluctantly so– to bow down to conservatives and the same obstructionist Republicans he castigates, going so far as to allow 140,000 teachers to lose their jobs so that he can get a few Republican votes to keep this disastrous war going, a war that is destined to make him remembered as not just the first African-American president but as a spectacularly failed president.

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Posted by The Agonist on July 20th, 2010

From our partners at The Agonist

Richard N. Haass | July 20

Newsweek – GOP chairman Michael Steele was blasted by fellow Republicans recently for describing Afghanistan as “a war of Obama’s choosing,” and suggesting that the United States would fail there as had many other outside powers. Some critics berated Steele for his pessimism, others for getting his facts wrong, given that President George W. Bush ordered the invasion of Afghanistan soon after 9/11. But Steele’s critics are the ones who are wrong: the RNC chair was more correct than not on the substance of his statement, if not the politics.

The war being waged by the United States in Afghanistan today is fundamentally different and more ambitious than anything carried out by the Bush administration. Afghanistan is very much Barack Obama’s war of choice, a point that the president underscored recently by picking Gen. David Petraeus to lead an intensified counterinsurgency effort there. After nearly nine years of war, however, continued or increased U.S. involvement in Afghanistan isn’t likely to yield lasting improvements that would be commensurate in any way with the investment of American blood and treasure. It is time to scale down our ambitions there and both reduce and redirect what we do.

** Rethink Afghanistan
** Frustration for the US soldiers who never went to war
** We are all Afghans..
** Afghan soldier kills US civilians
** Two US civilians, 10 Afghan forces killed in attacks (Roundup)
** White House shifts Afghanistan strategy towards talks with Taliban

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Posted by The Agonist on July 20th, 2010

From our partners at The Agonist

Here’s how to draw down in Afghanistan.

Newsweek, By Richard N. Haass, July 18

GOP chairman Michael Steele was blasted by fellow Republicans recently for describing Afghanistan as “a war of Obama’s choosing,” and suggesting that the United States would fail there as had many other outside powers. Some critics berated Steele for his pessimism, others for getting his facts wrong, given that President George W. Bush ordered the invasion of Afghanistan soon after 9/11. But Steele’s critics are the ones who are wrong: the RNC chair was more correct than not on the substance of his statement, if not the politics.

The war being waged by the United States in Afghanistan today is fundamentally different and more ambitious than anything carried out by the Bush administration. Afghanistan is very much Barack Obama’s war of choice, a point that the president underscored recently by picking Gen. David Petraeus to lead an intensified counterinsurgency effort there. After nearly nine years of war, however, continued or increased U.S. involvement in Afghanistan isn’t likely to yield lasting improvements that would be commensurate in any way with the investment of American blood and treasure. It is time to scale down our ambitions there and both reduce and redirect what we do.

The first thing we need to recognize is that fighting this kind of war is in fact a choice, not a necessity. The United States went to war in October 2001 to oust the Taliban government, which had allowed Al Qaeda to operate freely out of Afghanistan and mount the 9/11 attacks. The Taliban were routed; members of Al Qaeda were captured or killed, or escaped to Pakistan. But that was a very different war, a necessary one carried out in self-defense. It was essential that Afghanistan not continue to be a sanctuary for terrorists who could again attack the American homeland or U.S. interests around the world.

The Bush administration was less clear on what to do next. Working in the State Department at the time, I was appointed by President Bush as the U.S. government’s coordinator for the future of Afghanistan. At a National Security Council meeting chaired by the president in October 2001, I was the one arguing that once the Taliban were removed from power there might be a short-lived opportunity to help establish a weak but functional Afghan state. There and at subsequent meetings I pressed for a U.S. military presence of some 25,000–30,000 troops (matched by an equal number from NATO countries) to be part of an international force that would help maintain order after the invasion and train Afghans until they could protect themselves.

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Posted by Newshoggers.com on July 18th, 2010

From our partners at Newshoggers.com

By Steve Hynd

The Kabul Conference, follow up to the London Conference in January, is due to kick off on Tuesday and the Independent has a leaked document on how that wind will blow.

A leaked communiqué – a copy of which has been seen by The Independent on Sunday – reveals how President Hamid Karzai will announce the timetable for a "conditions-based and phased transition" at the International Conference on Afghanistan to be held in Kabul on Tuesday.

… An agreed version of the document, marked "not for circulation", was sent to senior diplomats yesterday by Staffan de Mistura, the United Nations Special Representative in Afghanistan.

It states: "The international community expressed its support for the President of Afghanistan's objective that the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) should lead and conduct military operations in all provinces by the end of 2014."

…The communiqué goes on to pledge that the international community will continue to "provide the support necessary to increase security during this time, and the continued support in training, equipping and providing interim financing to the ANSF at every level to take on the task of securing their country". It adds: "The government of Afghanistan and the international community agreed to jointly assess provinces, with the aim of announcing by the end of 2010 that the process of transition is under way."

The announcement is one of many issues surrounding development and governance that will be addressed at the conference, as well as an $800m (£523m) five-year Afghan peace and reintegration programme that "aims to reintegrate in five years up to 36,000 ex-combatants and to reach 4,000 communities in 220 districts of 22 provinces". The document also outlines short-term goals for coalition troops. These include combating the opium trade by maintaining the provinces that are currently free of drug cultivation, and increasing the number of poppy-free provinces in Afghanistan to 24 within 12 months. It also describes transparent elections in future as a matter of paramount importance.

President Karzai will tell delegates that the conference represents "a turning point" in Afghanistan's "transition to an era of Afghan-led peace, justice and more equitable development". He will also pledge that "expanding the day-to-day choices and capabilities of the Afghan people and ensuring their fundamental rights" will "remain the cornerstones of my government's approach to peace-building and comprehensive recovery".

A senior source in the British military confirmed yesterday that the blueprint was "a significant map laying out the stages on the way to withdrawal". He said: "The British government has been talking in terms of a 2014 withdrawal, but nobody has been able to produce a timetable identifying how and when things would happen. This document demonstrates that there is a will in the international community to have it done by then.

As I wrote in January:

The aim is still to begin papering over the cracks and head for the exits, with a drawdown beginning next year so that Obama can point to actual troops leaving and all "combat troops" probably out in 3 years. A "non-combat" residual force will stay for some indeterminate time to train Afghan security forces they'll never be able to afford at those levels and Western money will be pouring in for a decade and more.

If this sounds a lot like Iraq to you, well you'd be right. Apparently there is a lesson which can be taken from one misadventure and be applied wholesale to the other.

The truth is that Afghanistan is going to be no more stable in four years time than it is now – thus "papering over the cracks". Just as in Iraq, even after the COINdinistas have announced the success of their surge and the neocons have talked up their victory, violence will be causing large scale casualties and a carefully-constructed facade of progress will begin breaking down anew into another set of civil wars between factions.

Meanwhile, the West will have spent another $trillion or so and another 1,000 or more soldiers on what is essentially a face-saving exercise. We could pack up and leave right now and nothing essential would change in Afghanistan. What would change would be the careers of COIN-loving generals, interventionist pundits and politicians who more afraid of being seen to "cut and run" than they are of the ghosts of young Americans.

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Posted by robertgreenwald on July 17th, 2010

Rethink Afghanistan Part Six Graphic

This week’s Newsweek cover leads with the title, “Rethinking Afghanistan” and features an essay from Richard Haass at the Council on Foreign Relations, warning that the war isn’t worth the cost and the current policy isn’t working. It’s gratifying to see the message that Brave New Foundation’s Rethink Afghanistan campaign has pushed for a year on the front pages of such a mainstream publication. To Haas and the Newsweek team: we’re glad to have you with us.

Newsweek’s cover is just the latest sign that opposition to this brutal, costly war is now the norm, and American policy-makers had better take notice. Public opposition for to this war has exploded.

According to Newsweek’s latest poll, 53 percent of those surveyed disapprove of the way President Obama is handling the Afghanistan War, and only 37 percent approve.

Bloomberg’s latest poll found that:

  • 60 percent want to “stick to the plan to start withdrawal of forces in July of next year, even if the country is still as unstable as it is today.” Only 37 percent are “open to keeping the current number of forces in Afghanistan–or even adding more–if the country is still unstable in July of next year.”
  • A whopping 58 percent of those surveyed think the war is a lost cause, compared to 36 percent who think that winning is even a possibility.

And finally, Pew Research/National Journal Congressional Connection’s poll on July 8-11 found that a whopping 42 percent of people surveyed want to remove troops ASAP, up ten points since February.

But politics aside, our elected officials should end this war for the most basic of reasons: it’s a brutal policy that’s not working and that’s not worth the costs. It’s not worth the life of one more American troop or one more Afghan civilian. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once noted about an earlier counterinsurgency in someone else’s country: “The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours.”

If you want to help end this war, join Rethink Afghanistan on Facebook.

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Posted by Newshoggers.com on July 16th, 2010

From our partners at Newshoggers.com

By Steve Hynd

The numbers say it has been a true "annus horribilis" in Afghanistan.

– For Afghan civilians, 2010 has been the worst year ever with 1,074 dead and over 1,500 injured in just the last six months.

– For US contractors, the last twelve months have seen a 175% rise in deaths: from 189 last June 30th since the war began in 2001, to 521 this June 30th.

U.S. military casualties rose by 60% from last year.

June was the worst month ever for US Army suicides, with 32 soldiers taking their own lives. Paul Reickhoff of veterans-rights group IAVA is in no doubt that the primary cause of these suicides is "untreated psychological injuries" sustained in Ameriac's foreign occupations, which have "pushed both troops and veterans to take their own lives".

– And, while Americans still mostly blame Bush for getting their nation into the dual quagmires of COIN-Colonialist occupation, we are now only 51 lives away from another tragic milestone:

When Obama entered office in January 2009, there had been 568 U.S. casualties associated with the Afghanistan conflict, a number that has grown to 1,086, as of yesterday, according to the Defense Department.

Judging by June – when 60 US servicemen died – next month could see the point at which more American soldiers have died in Afghanistan on Obama's watch than on Dubya's.

Since 2001, our national leaders have doubled down time and again in Afghanistan, and this is the result. Now, the Pentagon and the "very serious" Beltway set are arguing that the US must stay long past the 2011 date Obama had set for the beginning of a drawdown there. With 60% of Americans looking for an exit, it's obvious that the people are smarter than those their leaders.

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Posted by Newshoggers.com on July 15th, 2010

From our partners at Newshoggers.com

Commentary By Ron Beasley

As Steve noted below 58% of Americans think Afghanistan is a lost cause and 60% think we should start withdrawing troops next August even if the country is unstable.  I'm sure those numbers will only rise.  I found this interesting confidential CIA document over at WikiLeaks. It appears the CIA is worried about public opinion in Europe.

Afghanistan: Sustaining West European Support for the NATO-led
Mission—Why Counting on Apathy Might Not Be Enough

The fall of the Dutch Government over its troop commitment to Afghanistan
demonstrates the fragility of European support for the NATO-led ISAF mission.
Some NATO states, notably France and Germany, have counted on public
apathy about Afghanistan to increase their contributions to the mission, but
indifference might turn into active hostility if spring and summer fighting
results in an upsurge in military or Afghan civilian casualties and if a Dutchstyle
debate spills over into other states contributing troops. The Red Cell
invited a CIA expert on strategic communication and analysts following public
opinion at the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) to
consider information approaches that might better link the Afghan mission to
the priorities of French, German, and other Western European publics.

The people of France and Germany are opposed to their counties participation in NATO misadventure they really don't care about it that much so leaders in those countries can simply ignore public opinion.

If some forecasts of a bloody summer in Afghanistan come to pass, passive French and
German dislike of their troop presence could turn into active and politically potent hostility. The tone of previous debate suggests that a spike in French or German casualties or in Afghan civilian casualties could become a tipping point in converting passive opposition into active calls for immediate withdrawal. (C//NF)

French and German commitments to NATO are a safeguard against a precipitous departure, but leaders fearing a backlash ahead of spring regional elections might become unwilling to pay a political price for increasing troop levels or extending deployments. If domestic politics forces the Dutch to depart, politicians elsewhere might cite a precedent for “listening to the voters.” French and German leaders have over the past two years taken steps to preempt an upsurge of opposition but their vulnerability may be higher now…

If the rest of NATO pulls out it will make it even more difficult for the US government to ignore the voters so can the war be re branded in Europe to minimize the backlash?

French Focused On Civilians and Refugees. Focusing on a message that ISAF benefits
Afghan civilians and citing examples of concrete gains could limit and perhaps even reverse
opposition to the mission. Such tailored messages could tap into acute French concern for
civilians and refugees. Those who support ISAF in INR surveys from fall 2009 most
frequently cited their perception that the mission helps Afghan civilians, while opponents
most commonly argued that the mission hurts civilians. Contradicting the “ISAF does more
harm than good” perception is clearly important, particularly for France’s Muslim minority:

  • Highlighting Afghans’ broad support for ISAF could underscore the mission’s
    positive impact on civilians. About two-thirds of Afghans support the presence of
    ISAF forces in Afghanistan, according to a reliable ABC/BBC/ADR poll conducted in
    December 2009. According to INR polling in fall 2009, those French and German
    respondents who believed that the Afghan people oppose ISAF—48 percent and 52
    percent, respectively—were more likely than others to oppose participation in the
    mission.
  • Conversely, messaging that dramatizes the potential adverse consequences of an
    ISAF defeat for Afghan civilians could leverage French (and other European) guilt
    for abandoning them. The prospect of the Taliban rolling back hard-won progress
    on girls’ education could provoke French indignation, become a rallying point for
    France’s largely secular public, and give voters a reason to support a good and
    necessary cause despite casualties.
  • The media controversy generated by Paris’s decision to expel 12 Afghan refugees in
    late 2009 suggests that stories about the plight of Afghan refugees are likely to
    resonate with French audiences. The French government has already made
    combating Afghan human trafficking networks a priority and would probably
    support an information campaign that a NATO defeat in Afghanistan could
    precipitate a refugee crisis.

Germans Worried About Price And Principle Of ISAF Mission. German opponents of
ISAF worry that a war in Afghanistan is a waste of resources, not a German problem, and
objectionable in principle, judging from an INR poll in the fall of 2009. Some German
opposition to ISAF might be muted by proof of progress on the ground, warnings about the
potential consequences for Germany of a defeat, and reassurances that Germany is a
valued partner in a necessary NATO-led mission.

  • Underscoring the contradiction between German pessimism about ISAF and Afghan
    optimism about the mission’s progress could challenge skeptics’ assertions that the
    mission is a waste of resources. The same ABC/BBC/ADR poll revealed that 70
    percent of Afghans thought their country was heading in the right direction and
    would improve in 2010, while a 2009 GMF poll showed that about the same
    proportion of German respondents were pessimistic about ever stabilizing
    Afghanistan.
  • Messages that dramatize the consequences of a NATO defeat for specific German
    interests could counter the widely held perception that Afghanistan is not
    Germany’s problem. For example, messages that illustrate how a defeat in
    Afghanistan could heighten Germany’s exposure to terrorism, opium, and refugees
    might help to make the war more salient to skeptics.
  • Emphasis on the mission’s multilateral and humanitarian aspects could help ease
    Germans’ concerns about waging any kind of war while appealing to their desire to
    support multilateral efforts. Despite their allergy to armed conflict, Germans were
    willing to break precedent and use force in the Balkans in the 1990s to show
    commitment to their NATO allies. German respondents cited helping their allies as
    one of the most compelling reasons for supporting ISAF, according to an INR poll in
    the fall of 2009.

It's not often we get a behind the scenes look at a propaganda campaign.

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Posted by Just Foreign Policy on July 15th, 2010

From our partners at Just Foreign Policy

The majority of Americans want the Obama Administration to establish a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, CBS News reports. 54% think the U.S. should set a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, with 41% opposed. Among Democrats, 73% think the U.S. should set a timetable, with 21% opposed; among independents, 54% support a withdrawal timetable, with 40% opposed; among Republicans, 32% support a withdrawal timetable, with 66% opposed.

Two weeks ago today, Members of the House of Representatives were polled on a similar proposition, when the House voted on an amendment introduced by Rep. Jim McGovern [D-MA], Rep. David Obey [D-WI], and Rep. Walter Jones [R-NC] that would have required the President to establish a timetable for the redeployment of U.S. military forces in Afghanistan. That amendment failed, with 153 Democrats, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, voting yes, and 98 Democrats voting no; while 9 Republicans voted yes and 162 Republicans voted no. So in the McGovern-Obey-Jones "poll," Democrats in the House were 60%-38% in favor of a withdrawal timetable, while House Republicans were 91%-5% against.

If Democratic and Republican voters in the CBS poll had been allowed to stand in for Democrats and Republicans in the House two weeks ago (ignoring independents, also pro-timetable), the McGovern amendment would have passed 243-171, with 186 Democrats and 57 Republicans voting yes, and 54 Democrats and 117 Republicans voting no.

read more

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Posted by Josh Mull on July 15th, 2010

I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for The Seminal and Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on The Seminal or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed below are my own.

When I originally posted my snotty response to Spencer Ackerman’s civilian casualties post, I had planned on all but ignoring his substantive arguments (which are most obviously phony) and instead focused on his ridiculous characterizations of anyone questioning Afghanistan policy as a whole (“U.S. withdrawal comes with a pony for every Afghan citizen”). But Spencer insisted that I was taking insurgents causing civilian casualties as a given whereas he considers it a more “salient point.” He writes:

[...]Some of the most convincing arguments I’ve read against both the war and the prosecution of it have come from people…who start from the premises of war supporters and argue that on their own terms the war doesn’t make sense. That stuff causes me to rethink and adjust…

I’ve written about this before, that those pushing to end the war should most certainly not be accepting the premises of the war makers, and should instead articulate their own specific national interests and the policies to realize them. Provide an alternative, not necessarily a counter. But it also strikes me vaguely as something of a Celestial Teapot, the philosophical exercise wherein the burden of proof is on the person who says something amazing exists (a teapot floating in space) and not on the person who refutes it (there is no teapot).

In our sense, it is the folks arguing that war leads to peace and stability in Afghanistan asking those who say otherwise to try and work backwards from their own twisted arguments, to prove their war wrong. Once you start accepting their premises, about civilian casualties, counter-insurgency doctrine, or whatever it is, then proving your case to actually end the war becomes almost impossible.

Quite frankly, I’m not the one advocating for a decade-plus, trillion dollar occupation of Afghanistan in order to create a “stable security sector”, so it’s not really my responsibility to help “adjust” and refine the arguments of anyone who does advocate for it. Rather those pushing for an end to the war are advocating their own policy to achieve their own national interests.

Cutting the trillion dollar war is because we need that money for our broken economy, job creation, and so forth. By withdrawing our military from Afghanistan we are strengthening our national security, removing our troops from an unwinnable quagmire that kills them there and at home, as well as removing the bloody occupation which provides much of the impetus for terrorist attacks and the Taliban insurgency. It’s not simply red teaming the pro-war crowd, it’s an independent political movement.

But in this case, we should take Spencer up on his invitation. Not only will he get what he wants, a discovery that on his own terms the war doesn’t make sense, but it will also help us understand exactly what it is that the United States’ national interests actually are in Afghanistan. (more…)

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