October 7th marked nine years since the United States initiated “Operation Enduring Freedom” in Afghanistan following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City.
Many are questioning why, so many years later, the US is still at war in Afghanistan.
“We’re there because no US president, no US politician is willing to say, this is a failed war from the beginning, we should never have been there from the beginning, we should get out. No one is willing to say what they are afraid will look like a defeat. The reality is, it has been a defeat,” said Phyllis Bennis, the director of the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, DC.
She argued that the war was a defeat from the beginning and than many Americans spoke out against the war nine years ago before it began.
“It has been a failure ever since,” she added. “If they want to declare it a victory, this is something once called in Vietnam, just declare it a victory and get out.”
Iraq war veteran and anti-war activist Adam Kokesh argued that there was due cause to go into Afghanistan following 9/11 in pursuit of Osama Bin Laden and those responsible, however the US did not need to engage in all out war.
“The significance of this day is just another milestone in the failure of the current paradigm of American foreign policy,” said Kokesh.
Bennis agreed that war was not the right response and called the incidents of 9/11 “a massive crime”.
“This was a crime, a massive crime that required the massive compilation of forces from around the worlds, of police forces, of investigators, to go after criminals and bring them to justice. Not to use B-52s as flying bounty hunters,” said Bennis.
She said the notion we were targeting the Taliban because of human rights violations does not explain why the US used to work with the Taliban. In 1996 a Taliban delegation came to the US to discuss oil pipelines.
Bennis added; “There’s a lot of hypocrisy here and I think that we do ourselves a disservice and we do the people of Afghanistan a disservice if we blur that. We were attacked in a horrible crime against humanity. The answer to that should never have been war.”
Kokesh explained that the US response should have followed constitutional authority, as opposed to unconstitutional war.
“That is, letters of marque and reprisal. It’s a way of identifying specific foreign actors who are enemies of the United States and we can go after them precisely with surgical strikes or as Phyllis said, with a massive force of police and investigators,” he said.
However, he explained that the US military industrial complex works to seek money in any way it can find, including through fear.
“I don’t think when you’re fighting an enemy, at least our declared enemy at one point was Osama Bin Laden, I don’t think it’s a good idea to do exactly what he wants you to do and he said repeatedly his objective is to suck the United States into a conflict it cannot afford,” said Kokesh.
Kokesh also explained that a number of US troops are returning from combat no longer able to justify what they took part in. Troops are acting inappropriately in Afghanistan and need help. Military suicides are on the rise.
“We have now lost more veterans to suicide than combat since 9/11,” he said. “No one that comes home from these wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and now Pakistan, is untouched by that experience.”
Both Kokesh and Bennis agreed it is time to end the war.
“Get out,” said Bennis. “The presence of US troops in Afghanistan is doing no good to the people of Afghanistan or keeping safe the people of the United States."
“We’re protecting those interests. Were helping build an Afghanistan that can protect itself and governmen itself against the Taliban. So, that’s why were there. It’s pretty simple,” said Carafano
Iraq and Afghanistan US veteran Jake Diliberto from ReThink Afghanistan disagreed.
“Hubris, failed policy after failed policy, a lack of recognition of history” has kept the US in Afghanistan, Diliberto said.
He argued that Carafano’s comments fail to consider that there is no hope for any sense of victory in Afghanistan.
“At best we’re playing for a stalemate,” said Diliberto, arguing that traditional victory is not obtainable.
Diliberto explained that the US spends approximately $10 billion per al-Qaeda member in Afghanistan and needs to consider where those dollars are being spent in order to see any victory in the broader US War on terror.
“There’s no do-overs in war. I hear you saying, nine long years. You know, if we’d had that attitude in the Civil War we’d all have gotten up and left. The Civil War was long, it was bloody, our strategy was bad when it was started but yet President Lincoln didn’t quit because there was an interest at stake,” said Carafano.
He argued that, like the US Civil War, the US must stick it out and correct the strategy in Afghanistan in order to win and meet the need of the US national interest.
“We had a presidential election. We elected a president, who actually came in and was skeptical about the mission in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a president who has his base of his political support doesn’t like war, thinks much in these critical ways, and yet he’s decided this is a war that needs to be fought and needs to be now and he has the support of the majority of congress behind him. You know what, if the American people don’t like that they can vote him out, they can send a signal,” said Carafano.
He argued that having US forces on the ground in Afghanistan allowed the government to prevent terrorist attacks around the world, including preventing other 9/11 type events in America.
Dilliberto contend however that US foreign policy needs to be scaled back to realistic approaches and argued that the Civil War comparison cannot be made, the two are not the same nor similar.
“Nothing could be further from the truth, the Civil War; we were fighting in our own territory for our security, for our places. We had 19 hijackers, all of which were not Afghans, attacked us on 9/11”, said Diliberto. “These attacks were planned in Peshawar in Pakistan, not Afghanistan. They were planned by Khaled Cheikh Mohammed who’s in custody now and the guys who orchestrated it all had masters degrees in Germany. So, this idea that an ongoing war, an ongoing emphasis in Afghanistan is vital to our interest really misses the point."
Diliberto said the US should be creating an effective counter-terrorism strategy and employ an effort that focuses on targeting the 5000-7000 loosely affiliated Islamic militants around the world.