President Obama’s address Wednesday night regarding U.S. troop withdrawals in Afghanistan will make few people happy. Many in the military wanted a smaller withdrawal than the 10,000 he announced will come out this year, with another 23,000 out by the end 2012, and all troops gone by 2014. For the far left and increasingly some on the right, who want nothing short of a full scale withdrawal now, the President’s announcement disappointed at best and represented a betrayal at worst. For many Americans, 56% according to a recent Pew poll, the war’s cost no longer seems worth the effort, where every service member deployed in Afghanistan costs U.S. taxpayers $1 million per year. Many have said it is time to stop rebuilding Afghanistan and start rebuilding America.
One can understand the frustration on all sides of this, the longest war in America’s history. However, the United States cannot afford to turn its back on what is right – either in terms of national security or our values. And on both counts, President Obama’s modest withdrawal is the right call.
In terms of national security, Osama bin Laden’s assassination scored a huge foreign policy victory for the Obama administration as well for all peoples who oppose the hatred and violence that bin Laden espoused. Yet the sole justification for the Afghan campaign was not bin Laden’s death or capture. It is true that only about 50 to 100 al Qaeda operatives remain in Afghanistan. Recall, however, that only 19 hijackers were needed for the September 11th attacks. Furthermore, so few al Qaeda remain in Afghanistan, in part, because many have fled to the ungoverned tribal areas in Pakistan. If the United States leaves Afghanistan an ungoverned mess, al Qaeda will have more places from which to train to kill Americans and our allies. (more…)