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Monday, September 14, 2009

How Much Longer Will We Stay in Afghanistan?

By: Ryan Jaroncyk, THL Contributor

A recent Huffington Post article noted that Obama's administration continues to evade a critical question in the Afghanistan War: how much longer will it take?

Defense Secretary, Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen have yet to provide a definitive answer. Gates even went so far as to say that there were "too many variables to predict" and that America's non-military role "probably is a decades-long enterprise." In the meantime, the initial, 21,000 troop surge is nearly complete, and newly appointed General, Stanley McChrystal is about to ask for more.

July and August were the deadliest months for U.S. troops in Afghanistan, 2009 has been the deadliest year since hostilities began in the region, and the widely scattered Taliban are waging massive attacks on our soldiers and vital Afghan targets. Afghanistan, eight years after the U.S. invasion, is still unable to govern itself, secure its own borders, or develop a self-sufficient economy. For all this, Osama bin Laden is still at large- a fact underscored by his recent tape.

The American public is getting wise to this act. According to the most recent CNN Poll, 39% of Americans support the war, while 58% oppose it. And for good reason. The war cost, in both blood and treasure, has been much higher than anticipated, there is little hope for a definitive victory, and it appears as if we'll be rebuilding and governing a third-world nation for decades to come.

What is Obama to do? On the left, there's growing discontent over increasing casualty counts, rising expenses, and the potential for an open-ended commitment. But, these are the same individuals who largely supported the initial 21,000 troop surge. On the right, many conservatives are urging the President to commit even more troops, devote billions more, and embark on a massive, decades long nation building exercise.

Yet, these are the same "fiscal conservatives" chastising Obama and the Democrats for running $1.6 trillion budget deficits, adding trillions more to the national debt, and devaluing the U.S. Dollar. And with these conservatives, there's often very little discussion about the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder epidemic in the U.S. Military, as well as record suicide rates due to long-term deployments.

What will Obama do? Knowing Obama, he will likely take "the middle path," and that could be the worst possible outcome. The Bush administration adopted a piecemeal approach to Iraq, and six years later, we still have over 130,000 troops stationed inside the country. Deficits grew and the Dollar lost more and more of its value. Thus far, Obama is repeating the same exact policy in Afghanistan. A little here, a little there, and voila, more and more troops, more and more debt, and a pummeled Dollar.

Who pays the price for this half-baked approach? The U.S. taxpayer and the precious men, women, and families in the U.S. military. Vague goals, meaningless platitudes, and continued half-measures are putting our troops in the worst possible situation, draining our treasury, and devaluing our currency.

So, how much longer will it take? As long as victory can't be precisely defined, specific benchmarks aren't in place, the war budget knows no limits, and the same old politicians offering the same old plans are re-elected, we can look forward to staying in Afghanistan ...forever.

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