Oct 14 2012

 

 

 

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In a dramatic, powerful and rare full length editorial 'Time To Pack Up', the New York Times has declared it is time to leave Afghanistan now. The paper no longer sees any purpose in sacrificing another life in this endless war. They definitively declare that waiting until the end of 2014 is unacceptable. Here are some excerpts but you must read it in full.

"After more than a decade of having American blood spilled in Afghanistan, with nearly six years lost to President George W. Bush’s disastrous indifference, it is time for United States forces to leave Afghanistan on a schedule dictated only by the security of the troops. It should not take more than a year. The United States will not achieve even President Obama’s narrowing goals, and prolonging the war will only do more harm.

Vice President Joseph Biden Jr. said on Friday that “we are leaving Afghanistan in 2014, period. There is no ifs, ands or buts.” Mr. Obama indicated earlier that this could mean the end of 2014. Either way, two more years of combat, two more years of sending the 1 percent of Americans serving in uniform to die and be wounded, is too long.

Administration officials say they will not consider a secure “logistical withdrawal,” but they offer no hope of achieving broad governance and security goals. And the only final mission we know of, to provide security for a 2014 Afghan election, seems dubious at best and more likely will only lend American approval to a thoroughly corrupt political system. "

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"But it is now clear that if there ever was a chance of “victory” in Afghanistan, it evaporated when American troops went off to fight the pointless war in Iraq. While some progress has been made, the idea of fully realizing broader democratic and security aims simply grows more elusive. Meanwhile, more than 2,000 American troops have died in this war, more than 50 of them recently in growing attacks by Afghan forces, and many thousands more have been maimed. The war has now cost upward of $500 billion. Representative Paul Ryan, the Republican vice-presidential nominee, said at the debate on Thursday: “We don’t want to lose the gains we’ve gotten. We want to make sure that the Taliban doesn’t come back in.”

More fighting will not consolidate the modest gains made by this war, and there seems little chance of guaranteeing that the Taliban do not “come back in,” at least in the provinces where they have never truly been dislodged. Last month, militants struck a heavily fortified NATO base. Officials say the Pakistan-based Haqqani network is behind many of the attacks on Americans. "

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"Some experts say a secure withdrawal would take at least six months, and possibly a year. But one year is a huge improvement over two. It would be one less year of having soldiers die or come home with wounds that are terrifying, physically and mentally.

Suicides among veterans and those in active service reached unacceptable levels long ago. A recent article by The Associated Press quoted studies estimating that 45 percent of returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are claiming disability benefits. A quarter of those veterans — 300,000 to 400,000, depending on the study — say they suffer from some form of post-traumatic stress disorder. This is far too high a price to go on asking of troops and their families. "

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"EFFECTIVE, CREDIBLE GOVERNANCE President Hamid Karzai’s weak and corrupt government, awash in billions of dollars, continues to alienate Afghans and make the Taliban an attractive alternative. Mr. Karzai recently chose Asadullah Khalid, a man accused of torture and drug trafficking, to take over the country’s main intelligence agency. Dozens of Karzai family members and allies have taken government jobs, pursued business interests or worked as contractors to the United States government.

A recent report by Afghanistan’s central bank said the Afghan political elite had been using Kabul Bank as a piggy bank. In 2010, word that the bank had lost $300 million caused a panic, and the number later tripled. To win pledges of continued aid at an international donors conference in July, President Karzai promised to crack down on corruption and make political reforms, but he has done little. The aid sustaining his government is at risk if he fails. We doubt that he will exercise real leadership. For now, he has proved himself to be not only unreliable, but a force undermining American goals and Afghans’ interests"

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"The United States has a huge interest in a less destructive Pakistan, a nuclear-armed country of 170 million that supports jihad in Afghanistan, Kashmir and Indian cities. But there is reason to argue that America’s leverage with Pakistan on security matters is limited by its need for Pakistani bases, border crossings and intelligence on the Taliban.

If tens of thousands of American troops were removed from landlocked Afghanistan, that might actually allow the United States to hang tougher with Islamabad. Pakistan officials might not listen, but at least the United States could be more honest about what the Pakistanis were doing to worsen the threat of terrorism and insurgency.

We are not arguing that everything will work out well after the United States leaves Afghanistan. It will not. The Taliban will take over parts of the Pashtun south, where they will brutalize women and trample their rights. Warlords will go on stealing. Afghanistan will still be the world’s second-poorest country. Al Qaeda may make inroads, but since 9/11 it has established itself in Yemen and many other countries.

America’s global interests suffer when it is mired in unwinnable wars in distant regions. Dwight Eisenhower helped the country’s position in the world by leaving Korea; Richard Nixon by leaving Vietnam; President Obama by leaving Iraq.

None of these places became Jeffersonian democracies. But the United States was better off for leaving. Post-American Afghanistan is likely to be more presentable than North Korea, less presentable than Iraq and perhaps about the same as Vietnam. But it fits the same pattern of damaging stalemate. We need to exit as soon as we safely can.

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