The editors of the Wall Street Journal are outraged at the notion that we might actually remove our troops from Afghanistan:
History shows the great danger in failing to distinguish between fighting wars and deterring them. That’s especially true now that the authoritarian nations of Russia, Iran and China are seeking to dominate their regions and sometimes join forces against U.S. interests.
One lesson is that keeping troops abroad is often cheaper than bringing them home. An unwavering commitment to the defense of Western Europe under NATO prevented the Cold War from becoming a hot one. Some 300,000 U.S. troops across Europe deterred Moscow for decades until the Warsaw Pact imploded.
They can’t seem to get their heads around the idea that Afghanistan is not Germany. There has never been a cohesive modern state in Afghanistan. We aren’t detering the Russians or Chinese there. We’re trying to pacify the Afghans themselves. A bare handful of American soldiers were killed in Europe after the conclusion of World War II. More of our soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan practically every year since 2001. If we’d experienced the kind of resistance in Germany we’re experiencing in Afghanistan, we’d’ve left there, too.
Afghanistan is a country of zero strategic interest to the United States as long as they’re not hosting Al Qaeda bases. We can’t even supply a base in Afghanistan without paying off the Pakistanis. There are cheaper ways to prevent Afghanistan from hosting Al Qaeda bases than propping up a state there, the purpose of counter-insurgency operations.