Ahead of President Obama’s Afghanistan policy announcement on Tuesday, December 1st, I issued the following statement:
“I appreciate President Obama’s careful consideration regarding the future of the U.S.’s engagement in Afghanistan. In a responsible shift from the previous administration, the president has resisted calls for a rush to judgment, giving such an important decision the attention it deserves.
“The President’s focus on providing an exit strategy for Afghanistan is appropriate and commendable. I am concerned, however, that the projected call for such a substantial increase in troops will cost too many of our soldiers’ lives for an unwinnable military mission and more money than we can afford to borrow from our children’s future. “The cost is too high. The proposed troop increase and what I fear may become a long term counterinsurgency commitment of sustaining 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan is estimated to cost more than $1 trillion. There is insufficient justification for the American people to bear the burden of what could become a long term commitment to what is already the second longest war in American history.
“Our security concern is Al-Qaeda, not the Taliban. Eight years ago we went into Afghanistan to eliminate al-Qaeda and the “safe haven” that Afghanistan’s Taliban were providing the terrorist group responsible for the 9/11 attacks. Al Qaeda has no significant presence today in all of Afghanistan. In contrast, their presence in Pakistan, Yemen, the Horn of Africa, and Europe has grown exponentially. I’m concerned increasing our involvement in Afghanistan will only further the perception of the U.S. as an occupying force in the region, hardening the indigenous insurgency in Afghanistan, and distracting our attention from the more serious threat of universal jihadist factions outside of Afghanistan.
“History shows that without a credible government partner, nation-building can’t succeed. Fighting a successful insurgency requires that the government in place be deserving of the loyalty and call to sacrifice demanded of its citizens. Unfortunately, the government of President Hamid Karzai is the second most corrupt in the world. The Karzai administration lacks the confidence of the Afghan people, and has virtually no influence outside of the capital, Kabul. Afghanistan has historically lacked a strong central government, let alone one financially and militarily dependent upon a foreign country.
“Instead of increasing our troop presence, the U.S. should limit its mission in Afghanistan to securing strategic Afghan population centers with the troops currently on the ground, require the Karzai government to make reforms if they want to continue receiving the existing level of aid for targeted development projects, and establish a more specific plan for drawing down our troops and empowering the legitimate provincial leaders to take control of their own destiny through semi autonomous regional councils operating in the Pastun-majority provinces.
“Our military and civilian personnel have served valiantly in Afghanistan for over eight years. The mission we set out to accomplish of capturing and prosecuting Osama bin Laden and the other perpetrators of the 9/11 attack can only be accomplished in Pakistan where they currently reside. The Afghan conflict is a civil war whose outcome can only be determined by the Afghan people, for better or for worse.”
Rep. James Moran (D) is Virginia’s 8th Congressional District Representative in the U.S. House of Representatives.