Roger Simon: We should not be in Afghanistan next year
The zero option is a plan to leave zero U.S. troops in Afghanistan after December 2014.
The other option, which never has been named, could be called the "let's break our promise to the American people and keep 10,000 to 16,000 troops in Afghanistan until at least 2024 at a cost of $80 billion or so" option.
Obama now wants to keep thousands of our fighting forces, plus NATO troops, in Afghanistan in four bases, where they can carry out counterterrorism missions and "instruct" (shades of Vietnam) the Afghan army.
That is one long war.
The war in Afghanistan already has cost us about a half-trillion dollars. More than 2,000 Americans have been killed in hostile action, and more than 19,000 have been wounded. Thousands of civilians have been killed.
True, there are things our forces still could do in Afghanistan, such as counterterrorism, which is not to be confused with counterinsurgency. Counterinsurgency is when you try to win the hearts and minds of the enemy. Counterterrorism is when you kill the enemy and then try to win their hearts and minds.Our mission that killed Osama bin Laden was counterterrorism. It was highly successful, though highly dangerous. (Bin Laden was sheltering in Pakistan, a country we pay $1 billion per year to conduct its own counterterrorism. But somehow the Pakistanis overlooked bin Laden year after year. Go figure.)
What does Karzai want? "We want the Americans to respect our sovereignty and laws and be an honest partner," he said. And then Karzai delivered his punch line: "And bring a lot of money." The crowd roared with laughter.
We have achieved our goals in Afghanistan. We have won. It is time for our troops to come home. If we stay for another decade, our good war could come to a very bad end.
Roger Simon is Politico's chief political columnist.
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