Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Maintaining Troops in Afghanistan: A Veteran's Day Tribute

On this Veteran’s Day, we have troops in Afghanistan in the longest American land war ever waged. There are definite risks for these remaining troops, but there are always risks for our troops, even on bases in America. That is one of the reasons we celebrate and honor our veterans, and I would hope not just on Veteran’s Day. They sacrifice a great deal, and not just in placing their lives on the line for the protection of us all. 

At this point, there is simply no comparison between Afghanistan and Vietnam. We're heading toward levels of about 10,000 troops left in Afghanistan. 

What are the benefits, then? Are there any? Why are we there? Just try and answer those questions. 

  • The Afghans want us to be there. 
  • The Taliban, Al Qaeda, and now ISIL/ISIS are present in country.
  • The strategic location of Afghanistan within its regional neighborhood has significant advantages for our national security.
It is without any doubt that the Taliban is not going anywhere. It is debatable that if we did leave that Al Qaeda and ISIL/ISIS after we do, but I think history isn't kind to that debate point. So, national security interests seem to align with maintaining at least a continued minimal presence in order to mitigate and disrupt efforts for these groups to set up safe havens and terrorist camps throughout the region. 

Possibly a more compelling reason to remain is the plight of the Afghan people, especially women and children. Without our continued hands-on support, the Afghan government and military would simply collapse leading to a vacuum. I think history is also very unkind to creating this sort of vacuum, especially when weighed with risks to our troops which we can largely mitigate with proper troop levels and support. 

Another very compelling reason is the overall strategic location of having a base of operations in which we can gather intelligence, launch attacks, and provide stability to a highly unstable, unpredictable neighborhood.

What is in the neighborhood? What are other dangerous potentialities and actors in the neighborhood?
We've made successful covert operations into Pakistan, killing Osama bin Laden, for an example. Pakistan is a nuclear power that is amazingly distrustful, paranoid possibly, of its neighbors. It's an often wavering ally in our fight against these violent extremists. 

Pakistan isn't the only important neighbor of Afghanistan. Iran being to its west is also something to definitely consider before making any decision to prematurely leave. Russia, China, and India are all nearby nuclear powers as well. 

Certainly, the issue of maintaining troops in the Afghanistan and South Asia theater is a complicated and dangerous one. It absolutely is a controversial one. The history of American bases in hot zones is as intricate as it is critical toward maintaining regional peace in areas like the Korean peninsula and Europe. Costs and risks may both ultimately be prohibitive, but the benefits may outweigh both in the short term. 

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