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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Weekly Debate: Should the US leave Afghanistan?


MASSPIRG spent the last few weeks registering students to vote during various events on campus

If you approached a stranger on the streets of Boston on the morning of September 12, 2001, and told them that America would be occupying Afghanistan for the next nine years without bringing the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks to justice, would they have believed you? On top of this, there is no end in sight for America’s involvement and continued investment in a corrupt and failing government in Kabul. This is the reality of 2010.

No progress has been made towards capturing Osama Bin Laden in the last eight years. America has been occupying Afghanistan at not only great financial cost, but at a great cost to the families of America. Lewis Black put it best when he said, “If you can think back to the beginning of this war, it may take a couple days, you might have to nap!” Black said that a full three years ago; and the effort originally titled “Operation Enduring Freedom” is still going strong in Washington DC and the policy circles there.

The objective appears to have been met a long time ago. After all, American freedom has endured since the attacks and the country is showing no signs of being occupied, enslaved, indentured, or any other circumstance that would suggest we are no longer free. We have not been successfully attacked by any of our “enemies” from the Middle East. The first actions that America took, in response to the 9/11 attacks, actually occurred that very same night, when operatives already stationed in the area set off explosions in Kabul. America has not left the country since. One could have made a sound argument we had been in the region long enough and it was about time to get out tails out of there…eight years ago!

It has been way too long since bin Laden escaped in the mountains, and it has been time for America to get out of the country. With billions of dollars having already been spent by America on the two wars in the Middle East, the slumping economy cannot afford this lavish and unnecessary spending.

Let’s sum up the costs of fighting in Afghanistan and providing for security against future attacks. Based on the Congressional Research Service, the US has spent $336 billion in Afghanistan and $29 billion for “enhanced security.” Congress has also passed a new budget for OEF for the “supplementary” amount of $1.121 trillion to continue military and civilian operations and expenses for Obama’s War and maintaining US power in the world. The White House has requested another $119.4 billion for FY 2011. This bill is indeed a tall one.

Can America afford to continue this enterprise?

Those who argue for remaining will likely say that national security requires that we stay and continue to march “forward.” While this argument may have some merit, it’s neither justified nor realistic. The Taliban and Al Qaeda can win simply by outlasting the US and its NATO friends, who are in Afghanistan to build a bulwark against Islamists hostile to Western security. Look at what happened in Vietnam and you’ll see just how futile our fight is. There is no reason to remain in Afghanistan. The original reasons America had for going into the country were sound; to take out the terrorists responsible for the September 11 attacks and the government who had been harboring them. After America managed to take out the oppressive Taliban regime, they failed to find the leaders of the Al-Qaeda terrorist group; and with a new war breaking out in Iraq, OEF fell out of the public spotlight and remained so until 2009.

When this issue was raised again in the headlines, there was a considerable outcry for the US to begin implementing an exit strategy. With the economy in a full-on downturn and a new administration taking control, cries grew louder to get out of the Middle East. While America is leaving Iraq, OEF seems like it will last forever with no end in sight. News just surfaced this week that Osama bin Laden and other Al-Qaeda leaders are not “on the run”, like we keep hearing from military sources, but living comfortably in Pakistani villages where they are treated as folk heroes. Is there really a reason to sustain so many casualties for something that is so unattainable?

Whatever progress that the US could have forged has been made in Afghanistan. Even though it’s understandable why America would want to stay to assist the fledgling democracy, and prevent the oppressive government from taking the country back, in the end it’s a harsh world and America has to look out for itself. With public opinion of the government dropping by the day, this administration needs to do something to put them back in public favor. Getting out of Afghanistan would definitely do it.

The billions of dollars being spent on this endeavor could be used to fund public education, create jobs, cut taxes, and help build the struggling infrastructure. Don’t all those ideas sound better than toiling in the desert with a clear-cut goal of working on a mission that has already half-failed? This is not in any way bashing the military. They have done an amazing job executing their orders and working with a nation trying to get back on its feet. The truth is, Afghanistan would be much worse off if it had not been for America toppling the Taliban regime. If OEF was fought just for Afghanistan’s interests, then the war would be a major success. But America had interests as well – to kill the men responsible for the 9/11 attacks – and so far that has been unsuccessful. There are no signs of progress with that matter. The bottom line is, America needs to get out now.