Andrew Bacevich had a searing piece in the weekend Times I recommend everyone read.
Despite appropriating over three-quarters of a trillion dollars on Afghanistan since 2001, Afghan security forces continue to be plagued by the problem of inflated rolls, with local commanders pocketing American-supplied funds to pay for nonexistent soldiers; according to the report, “The number of troops fighting alongside ‘ghost soldiers’ is a fraction of the men required for the fight.”
Large-scale corruption persists, with Afghanistan third from the bottom in international rankings, ahead of only Somalia and North Korea. Adjusted for inflation, American spending to reconstruct Afghanistan now exceeds the total expended to rebuild all of Western Europe under the Marshall Plan; yet to have any hope of surviving, the Afghan government will for the foreseeable future remain almost completely dependent on outside support.
And things are getting worse. Although the United States has invested $70 billion in rebuilding Afghan security forces, only 63 percent of the country’s districts are under government control, with significant territory lost to the Taliban over the past year. Though the United States has spent $8.5 billion to battle narcotics in Afghanistan, opium production there has reached an all-time high.
For this, over the past 15 years, nearly 2,400 American soldiers have died, and 20,000 more have been wounded.
And yet this was not a substantial issue in the presidential campaign, it made no appearances in President Trump’s address to Congress, and it barely was an issue discussed in the confirmation hearings of national security and foreign policy officials in the new administration. Barely discussed by either party in Congress.
Over 44,000 Americans die annually from preventable medical errors; 33,000 die from gunshot wounds; 34,000 die annually from car accidents-a quarter of which come from preventable distracted driving. It is estimated over 480,000 Americans will die annually from tobacco related illnesses and 88,000 annually from alcohol related illnesses. Yet we have spent three trillion dollars, lost 2,4000 brave soldiers, and had 20,000 wounded to avenge the deaths of 3,000 Americans nearly two decades ago. This excludes the Iraq numbers which are nearly twice as bad in terms of expenditure and casualties and excludes the continuing human tragedy in Syria and Iraq which are the direct result of American meddling in that region. Don’t get me wrong-I’m a Russia hawk, a China hawk, and to some extent an ISIS and Assad hawk-but it’s high time we get the Taliban and Afghan government to the negotiating table and draw up a power sharing agreement. So long as the Taliban and its leadership commits to ending their state sponsorship of terrorism I am willing to play ball with them in order for America to come home from this conflict. Al Qaeda is wiped out, Bin Laden is dead-it’s time to declare victory and come home.