Guy W. Farmer: It's time to get out of Afghanistan

When President Obama took office nearly four years ago he spoke of our "bad war" in Iraq and our "good war" in Afghanistan, and I went along with him. Now, however, Afghanistan has turned into a bad war and it's time for us to cut our losses and extricate ourselves from that quagmire of corruption and violence.

Here's a startling statistic for you: 20 percent of our casualties in Afghanistan are now inflicted by our Afghan "allies" - the same people our troops are attempting to train to defend themselves against al-Qaida and/or Taliban terrorists. As Pogo used to say, "We have met the enemy, and he is us."

Looking at the mounting death toll in America's longest war, 11 years and counting, I've come to the reluctant conclusion that we should withdraw sooner rather than later. President Obama has promised to remove our troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, but I think he should pull them out by the end of next year.

The evidence is overwhelming that the costs of fighting the war in Afghanistan - hundreds of billions of dollars and more than 2,000 lives --are much higher than the alleged benefits to our nation. Reno national security blogger Ty Cobb, a retired Army colonel who worked in the Reagan White House, writes that "a series of insider attacks against U.S. and allied troops by Afghan forces, continuing concerns over the reliability and effectiveness of Kabul's army and police, blatant corruption at the highest levels and simmering tribal rivalries . . . have combined to raise serious questions about the wisdom of continuing our commitment (to Afghanistan)." Well said!

"Most Americans believe that staying in Afghanistan until 2014, or beyond . . . will not bring any significant improvement in government competence or Afghan security forces' combat effectiveness," Cobb added, and I agree.

In his best-selling book, "Little America," Washington Post foreign correspondent Rajiv Chandrasekaran states that U.S. nation-building efforts have been sabotaged not only by Afghan corruption but also by infighting and incompetence within our own government.

Even the American military is highly dubious about our alleged "successes" in Afghanistan. Some unnamed (for obvious reasons) military sources give Obama's troop surge an "F" because conditions in Afghanistan are worse now than they were before the surge began, and because the surge failed to stop or slow the Taliban's momentum.

"The latest news from Afghanistan only underscores what's been clear for quite some time - that there's no light at the end of the tunnel in this war, no noble way out and not much point to staying in," wrote Slate war correspondent Fred Kaplan, who accused Afghan President Hamid Karzai of replacing competent provincial officials with sleazy cronies, including his own brother, "who tend to spread corruption."

Nevertheless, we continue to send millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars to our corrupt "ally," Karzai. Go figure!

So I believe that we should reject the "stay the course" politicians and pull the plug on Afghanistan because we will never transform a fractious tribal nation into a Western democracy, despite our best intentions.

• Guy W. Farmer, of Carson City, is a retired diplomat.


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