It's time to end it.
We got Bin Laden (update: still dead) and Al Qaeda, to the degree it exists, does not exist in Afghanistan. So why are we there? I'm not sure there is an answer that isn't fundamentally full of crap.
Here are three reasons to get out:
1) We have no more mission there. Al Qaeda isn't there anymore. Whatever the term "Taliban" means these days, it no longer means the same thing it did in 2001. "Taliban" means anyone fighting the NATO forces there. If there are no more NATO forces, what becomes of the "Taliban"? Now, the Taliban as it existed was never very popular. And while there are certain to be Islamist political parties and factions that thrive in a post-US Afghanistan, I am not at all sure that this should keep us up at night.
We will not be able to complete a "nation building" mission in 20 years. Sorry. Can't be done. And if it can't be done to completion, why start it in the first place? This isn't Iraq, where you can argue that we broke their country, so we have to help fix it. Afghanistan was always broken. Afghanistan is already better off now than it was in 2001. We did enough. Let them sort it out.
I heard an Army Captain on NPR say that if we leave now, we'll just be back in 20 years to finish the job. Well, that's a long freaking time! There's a lot of other stuff we can do in the next 20 years. Let's do THAT! And if, for some reason, we do have to go back in (I don't recall us having to go back into Vietnam) we can blow up that bridge when we come to it.
2) We have no ally. Today, Krazy Karzai kame out and komplained about NATO airstrikes and night raids. These are effective tactics against insurgents. They are effective, because they kill insurgents and also create NEW insurgents by pissing off the population. Business is booming, as it were. Our presence makes Karzai unpopular, so he has to create distance between himself and the NATO forces. I have an idea, let's give him about a 1000 miles of distance.
The Karzai regime is corrupt and doesn't especially like us. They are not a good partner in a nation building exercise that already faces the longest of long odds. Without a partner, without a group like the Kurds or the Japanese and German bureaucrats after World War II, you aren't going to accomplish anything of note.
3) We have no money. Right now, we are having among the stupidest conversations I can remember in Washington. Faced with a deep and lingering recession and high unemployment and the specter of a double dip staring us in the face, the Deficit Peacocks are threatening to destroy the economy in order to gut Medicare and other programs that are necessary to keep the economy from tanking even more.
Obama should say, "You're right, we need to spend less. I'm pulling us out of Afghanistan." According to the Congressional Research Service, we are spending about $75 billion a year in Afghanistan. Since 9/11, we have spent $1.283 TRILLION for military operations alone. This does not include the costs of caring for our veterans for decades to come or other peripheral costs. If we got out of Iraq and Afghanistan, we would be saving about $150 billion a year.
This savings, while not enough to offset the massive hole created by the Bush tax cuts, would be immediate and would not have a negative effect on the American economy and people (unlike say, cutting food stamps or health care spending).
Why are we still there? Can anyone tell me?