By Samuel Shumate
While President Obama’s tenure has involved countless geopolitical failures, the decision to remove troops from Afghanistan by 2016 tops the list. From 2009-2012, the number of boots on the ground in Afghanistan remained above 50,000 (CRS). Fast-forward to January 2015 and the U.S. troop level is below 10,000. With the continual threat of terrorism in the Middle East and the rise of groups like ISIS, now is not the time to withdraw or reduce the military budget. President Obama’s decision to remove troops is unjustified; furthermore this shows that the U.S. has quit on the mission it embarked upon in 2001.
Now President Obama and a majority of mainstream liberals favor the withdrawal of all U.S. troops by 2016; however this is an invitation for the resurgence of the Taliban and other terrorist groups to regain power in Afghanistan. Although liberals want to walk away from Operation Enduring Freedom due to the $641.7 billion already spent, objectives within the mission remain uncompleted: preventing the use of Afghanistan as a safe haven for terrorists and to develop relations with groups opposed to the Taliban. (2013 DOD estimates) Many provinces within Afghanistan are not a safe haven for terrorists, but removing all troops at will jeopardize what the U.S. has achieved in the past 14 years. The U.S. has worked with Afghan forces in counter-terrorism efforts and on how to protect their own people.
Former Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai said in 2013 that, “Without liberty, there is evil.” If President Obama removes all troops by 2016, then the Taliban will likely regain power within the next few years and evil will reign once again. Anti-war hippie liberals often claim, “this war is pointless and the U.S. should just end it now.” Let’s examine this argument further though. Is this a war that has a clear objective? Yes, although the strategy has evolved since 2001 (boots on the ground to counter insurgency operations), terrorism is still a powerful force in the Middle East and in other parts of the world. Just look at events such as 21 Christians that were beheaded last week. Second, what would be the annual costs of having a force of U.S. troops in Afghanistan? An active U.S. military presence, typically 30,000 troops, would cost around 40 billion annually (CRS 2009). Considering how much the U.S. has already invested, withdrawing troops is comparable to mowing a lawn and not completing the job. The Obama administration is wrong to treat this situation on a timetable basis. Instead, America should continue to support a country where democracy, freedom, and anti-terrorism operations have shown success against the Taliban. The U.S. should not only ght this war to provide regional stability in the Middle East, but to protect American interests both at home and abroad.
First, let’s examine one of the primary achievements made by U.S. forces in Afghanistan: an active participation of women in society. Under Taliban rule, women were systemically discriminated against and were barred from health care, education, politics, and employment. Only 3% of girls were able to attain a basic education (UN). In addition, the Taliban prohibited women from driving and governing; thus excluding them from taking part in society. According to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, 68% of community based schools were female in 2012. In addition, education enrollment in Afghanistan has skyrocketed from one million to over seven million since 2003. The number of Afghan women receiving health care increased from 9% to 60% from 2002-2010. While there is much data above, when liberals try to argue that the lives of women or citizens in Afghanistan have not improved under a U.S. military presence, their point is not only ridiculous, but invalid.
By pulling out all troops, this is a slap to the face to the U.S. military, NATO members, and Afghanistan. President Obama’s decision to withdraw troops by 2016 signals terrorist regimes do not pose a significant threat to the U.S. or Afghanistan. The matter of Afghanistan is one many Americans have an opinion about. This is a conflict that has been going on for 14 years now and may last another decade. However, if the U.S. decides to give up now, then then the Taliban may seize control of Afghanistan once again and be able to terrorize even more citizens. As a superpower in the world, backing away from terrorism is not a viable option.