In his Washington Post column George Will joins the chorus of pundits wondering why the heck we’re still in Afghanistan:
For 73 years, U.S. troops have been on the Rhine, where their presence helped win the Cold War — and now serves vital U.S. interests as Vladimir Putin ignites Cold War 2.0. Significant numbers of U.S. troops have been in South Korea for 68 years, and few people are foolish enough to doubt the usefulness of this deployment, or to think that it will or should end soon. It is conceivable, and conceivably desirable, that U.S. forces will be in Afghanistan, lending intelligence, logistical and even lethal support to that nation’s military and security forces for another 1,000 — perhaps 6,000 — days.
It would, however, be helpful to have an explanation of U.S. interests and objectives beyond vice-presidential boilerplate about how “We will see it through to the end.” And (to U.S. troops) how “the road before you is promising.” And how the president has “unleashed the full range of American military might.” And how “reality and facts and a relentless pursuit of victory will guide us.” And how U.S. forces have “crushed the enemy in the field” (or at least “put the Taliban on the defensive”) in “this fight for freedom in Afghanistan,” where Bagram Airfield is “a beacon of freedom.” If the U.S. objective is freedom there rather than security here, or if the theory is that the latter somehow depends on the former, the administration should clearly say so, and defend those propositions, or liquidate this undertaking, which has, so far, cost about $1 trillion and more than 2,200 American lives.
I am one of the few who opposed our adventure in Afghanistan from the start. I agreed that we needed to do something in response to the terrorist attacks on 9/11. Why did “something” take the form of invading and occupying the country? I was right that we’d be unable to uproot the Taliban. I was right that we’d be unable to establish a strong central government in Afghanistan. I was right that the Afghan government would never be capable of defending the country against foreign incursions by terrorists.
Now I’m right that no president will have the political courage to exit Afghanistan. It will be up to Congress but cowardice is so entrenched in the Congress that the likelihood is that we’ll be there forever.