In 2012, I wrote a short position piece for the Joe Coors for Congress campaign in Colorado regarding the war in Afghanistan. In it, I detailed the life, limb, and treasure spent up to that point.
Here are present-day numbers:
• From a start date of October 1, 2001, we’ve been fighting in Afghanistan for 15 years and 10 months, making this the longest war in US history and almost double the duration of the Revolutionary War.
• Total wounded as of October 2016: 20,049
• Total US deaths in Afghanistan or in Afghan support operations outside the country: 2,351
• Total cost to the US taxpayer: $2.4 trillion. Note: In fewer than five years this amount has risen 480% from $500 billion, and represents almost 13% of our $18.5+ trillion GDP. Compare the following: EPA $5.55B (.029% of GDP), US Department of Education $69.4B (.37% of GDP), IRS $11.2 (.06% of GDP)
This is what I said in 2012 [comments mine today]:
The horrors of 9/11 were planned in Afghanistan, so a successful engagement is defined as us leaving Afghanistan with a low probability that the government or its people will support any terrorist activity that would put our interests or national security – or those of our allies — in jeopardy again. We need to finish the job by giving our military leaders the resources they need, the rules of engagement they require, and a plan to maintain a US presence to the extent that our interests are maintained. Will we need to have a US presence in Afghanistan indefinitely? Perhaps. We have to ask ourselves what our risk tolerance is and what others areas – Europe for instance – might be acceptable to reduce our footprint [Me, 2017: Forget leaving Europe]. There’s a saying often attributed to a Taliban fighter to foreign invaders: “You have the watches, we have the time.” Whatever the Afghans’ motivations, we must carry on to protect our military and our national security.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s recent statement about the Taliban (emphasis mine) is troubling:
< blockquote >This new strategy signals clear support for the Afghan people and government. We will continue to support the Afghan government and security forces in their fight against terrorists and prevent the reestablishment of safe havens in the country.
Our new strategy breaks from previous approaches that set artificial calendar-based deadlines. We are making clear to the Taliban that they will not win on the battlefield. The Taliban has a path to peace and political legitimacy through a negotiated political settlement to end the war.
We stand ready to support peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban without preconditions. We look to the international community, particularly Afghanistan’s neighbors, to join us in supporting an Afghan peace process.
I’m glad we’re taking away calendar-based deadlines, and I’m glad we’re adding more troops. But the only reason we talk to our enemies without preconditions is if we’re losing. Does anyone believe the Taliban can be a legitimate political entity and ally? You know things are bad when political leaders proclaim peace is possible with known Islamic barbarians. By the way, since next to nothing good happens after the words “peace process”, let’s remove them from the lexicon of every US official.
Consider the countries where we’ve had and maintained a strong presence on the ground, and look how they’ve thrived, not just to the benefit of their own people, but the entire planet. If you have anything from Samsung, Kia, or Hyundai, you can thank our soldiers who fought and died – and who might be stationed today — in Korea. Look at the companies and products that sprang out of Germany and Japan after World War II. What are the odds these would have happened without our sizable influence and presence?
Afghanistan is sitting on substantial lodes of copper, iron ore, lanthanum, cerium, neodymium,
aluminum, gold, silver, zinc, mercury, and lithium – with an estimated value at nearly $3 trillion. It’s not our purpose to steal from those we invade, but can you imagine America bringing Afghanistan out of the Stone Age, and the peace that could be had with a free and prosperous ally in the region?
Regarding our military engagements, while we can’t and shouldn’t install an embassy and a Krispy Kreme on every piece of dirt we bomb, here’s what our general military strategy should be: If we go, we stay.
Image: Excerpted: Cpl. Pete Thibodeau – http://www.dvidshub.net/?script=images/images_gallery.php&action=viewimage&fid=164302, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7211830