At long last, America's overdue withdrawal from Afghanistan has begun. "The tide of war is receding," President Barack Obama declared as he announced that 10,000 troops would come home this year and 23,000 more next year.
That tide has been a deadly one for our country — 1,650 of our troops killed, more than 11,000 maimed (many horribly, their lives shattered), and almost half a trillion of our tax dollars siphoned from crucial needs here at home. And what did we buy with this precious outlay? An Afghan government that is flagrantly corrupt and embarrassingly inept; a nation that remains impoverished, largely illiterate, anarchic, split into factious ethnic groupings, and roiled by an unresolved civil war that's been simmering (and occasionally boiling over) for nearly 40 years.
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Chances are good that it will spiral into civil war again, no matter what we do. "We won't try to make Afghanistan a perfect place," Obama said, apparently with no irony in his voice.
Yet, the withdrawal he spoke of is proceeding at an excruciatingly slow and costly pace. For more than a year, we'll continue to dump $10 billion a month into that war — money desperately needed for nation-building in America. Even with Obama's announced reduction in our forces, 67,000 U.S. troops will still be in Afghanistan at the end of next year. And despite his pledge of a total military drawdown by 2015, it will cost taxpayers about $8 billion a year after that to meet his commitment to recruit, train, and fund a 300,000-member Afghan army and police force.
This is a classic case of throwing good money after bad. Far worse, for at least three more years, we'll be throwing more American lives into a war that the president has declared to be over. America has achieved its goals there, he told us. Fine. So let's leave. Now.