Let's Get Out of AfghanistanBy Edward I. Koch
The perpetual question, “Why are we in Afghanistan now?” was answered by Vice President Joe Biden. On Aug. 1, The New York Times reported that Vice President Biden said Thursday on NBC, “We are in Afghanistan for one express purpose: al-Qaida. Al-Qaida exists in those mountains between Afghanistan and Pakistan. We are not there to nation-build. We’re not out there deciding we’re going to turn this into a Jeffersonian democracy and build that country.”
According to Leon Panetta, director of the CIA, in an interview on ABC’s “This Week,” on June 27, “the number of al-Qaida [in Afghanistan] is actually relatively small. At most, we’re looking at 50 to 100, maybe less.”
In Pakistan, the estimate of al-Qaida’s numbers is about 300 operatives. The New York Times of July 1 reported, “Michael E. Leiter, one of the country’s top counterterrorism officials, said Wednesday that American intelligence officials now estimated that there were somewhat ‘more than 300’ al-Qaida leaders and fighters hiding in Pakistan’s tribal areas, a rare public assessment of the strength of the terrorist group that is the central target of President Obama’s war strategy.”
We will have 100,000 American soldiers in Afghanistan by the end of this summer. We are suffering enormous casualties which rise each month.
In the month of July, we suffered a record 66 deaths and 78 injuries. The most recent U.S. appropriation bill signed by President Obama on July 29 included $37 billion for the ongoing wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The expenditure of blood and treasure, if Joe Biden is correct, is way out of proportion.
President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, who is denounced by almost everyone as presiding over a corrupt government, and not respected by huge numbers of Afghans, recently said that he expects the American army to remain in and protect his country’s borders until 2014 when the Afghan army will finally be able to do the job.
That means a 13-year war at a minimum. If you can’t train an Afghan army in nine years, who believes another four will do the job?
The problem is that Afghanistan is in a civil war and the Taliban opponents of the government apparently have the support of the people to a greater extent than does the government. Somewhat analogous to what occurred in Vietnam.
The government of South Vietnam lacked support by its people. The government of North Vietnam, regrettably, had the support of its people.
The religious practices — Shariah — that offends Westerners is apparently accepted by a majority of the Afghan people. Why don’t we leave and let the Afghan people decide the outcome of that civil war among themselves?
If Vice President Biden is speaking for the Obama administration, there is hope that reason will prevail. I fear he is not.
Al-Qaida is in 62 countries. Probably in the U.S. itself, there are more than 50 putative operatives, some of whom undoubtedly entered the U.S. illegally across our southern border.
We are in for a war that could last 30 years or more. It should not be a land war with our soldiers locked in battle in a place when the population hates us. Instead, let us use drones, aircraft, and special forces from offshore.
Edward I. Koch is the former mayor of New York. His blog post appear on Newsmax.com