Osama Bin Laden is dead. Al Qaeda is no longer in Afghanistan in any significant numbers. While the Afghanistan War long ago lost a strategic rationale supported by actual outcomes on the ground (insurgent-initiated attacks continue to rise every year, despite the massive escalations of the past two years), Bin Laden’s death obliterates the last plausible excuse for keeping troops in Afghanistan any longer. It’s time to bring the troops home.
The celebrations following the death of Bin Laden were about more than the demise of a terrorist kingpin. They were an outpouring of relief and a release of tension–there is a feeling that something is ending. As one troop told the Army Times, “He’s dead. Can we go home now?”
It’s safe to say that that’s how most Americans feel. Even while Bin Laden was still at large, 73 percent of Americans wanted significant troop withdrawals this summer, and more than half of likely voters wanted all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan within a year. With Osama Bin Laden now buried in the ocean, it’s more than likely that almost everyone is asking the question, “He’s dead. Can we go home now?”
The White House, though, doesn’t seem to understand what most Americans want. According to The Hill:
The White House has stressed that the death of bin Laden is a major victory in the battle against al Qaeda, but should not be seen as a reason to change the U.S. game plan in Afghanistan.
Really? The U.S. invaded Afghanistan to get Bin Laden and destroy al-Qaeda. General Petraeus admits al-Qaeda is no longer in Afghanistan, and Bin Laden is dead. The fact that the administration does not view the death of Bin Laden and the driving out of al-Qaeda as a reason to draw the Afghanistan War to a close shows just how disconnected the war strategy has become from the original rationale for the U.S. invasion in the first place. In fact, in pursuit of the counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan, we’ve been scratching the backs of the Pakistani military and intelligence agencies, who may be implicated in allowing Bin Laden to shelter in their country.
But, if the death of Osama Bin Laden isn’t a good enough reason to change the game plan in Afghanistan, here’s another: the counterinsurgency strategy is a failure on its face. In the first quarter of 2011, insurgent attacks more than doubled compared to the first quarter of 2009, when President Obama took office and doubled down in Afghanistan. NATO expects insurgent attacks to continue to escalate as fighting season commences. So when the fighting heats up, what possible explanation can we offer to the next military family who loses their loved ones following Bin Laden’s death? What possible rationale remains? Supporting the corrupt, criminal Kabul government, which includes the man who brought Bin Laden to Afghanistan in the first place, along with the warlord that helped him escape Tora Bora? Please.
“We are continuing this policy in bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy. …All that we have to do is to send two mujahedeen to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written al Qaeda, in order to make generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic and political losses without their achieving anything of note other than some benefits for their private corporations.”
This is the first week after Bin Laden’s death, and during this week we’ll spend more than $2 billion on Afghanistan War. Every week we continue to do so is a week when Bin Laden is laughing at us from the grave.
He’s dead. We should go home now.