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Bringing troops home from Ahghanistan the right move

Guest op-ed

April 29, 2012
Mohey Mowafy , The Mining Journal

Back in the days when we invaded Afghanistan to kill or capture Osama Bin Laden, dismantle Al Qaida, and establish a democracy to protect Afghanis, especially women, from the brutality of the Taliban, the argument for our actions was strongly favorable.

Almost a decade later when President Obama beefed up our troops with an additional 30,000-plus surge, our hope was that our publicly declared goals could be realized faster.

One of the goals (killing Bin Laden) has certainly been realized, but it was not realized in Afghanistan. We killed him in Pakistan. As for neutering the Taliban and emancipating Afghani women by democratically elected "moderates," the debate is certainly not dead. More specific and complicatedly simple is the question "can/should we leave now?"

Once again, we find ourselves in a grey zone with no definitive whiteness and blackness, or right ideas and wrong ideas. The real concern for me is how bloated with political empty rhetoric, campaign style, our national debate currently seems to be. This is not fuel for a fiercely partisan campaign irrespective of how it may be viewed as a symbol of our true democracy.

And, once again, many of us tend to dismiss the value of decorum at such monumentally critical moments when we must never forget that we are all patriotic Americans who love our country in various ways.

It is disheartening when those who support a speedy withdrawal are perceived as weaklings, un-Americans and those who support escalating the action so that we "accomplish the mission" are judged as bloodthirsty war mongers insensitive to the daily sacrifices our troops make and oblivious to what President Eisenhower had cautioned as "the military industrial complex" which was affirmed by Colin Powell as "the terrorism industrial complex"

The significant pieces of the puzzle are actually well known to everyone, but the daunting task of putting them together is what seems to elude and divide us. This, in my view, is a major contributor to recent poll results showing that two-thirds of Americans oppose our involvement and express a longing to bring our troops home sooner than later.

The picture is not all that different when drawn from recent Afghan pools. In general they want us to leave sooner than later. However, they, too, seem to be divided, if not confused.

According to a recent poll, 73 percent of Afghanis support their national government (and even higher percentages support their army and police), yet more than 50 percent believe the country is headed in the wrong direction and fear losing most of what they gained should American troops withdraw too soon.

For me, this is a clear answer affirming that a military sweeping win is not a realistic hope for a favorable outcome. For me, this is a convincing narrative that the only way "out" must be far more political than militaristic. For me, there are many compromises to be made by everyone, and one should not forget that a major player, who may not be so visible now, is China. Yes, China, and the compelling Chinese needs for Afghan natural resources.

A long time ago, that need could have been for the opium above ground, but now the prize is what lies below. Afghanistan is not only Kabul and Kandahar, it is an enormously vast country that is richly endowed with some of the most precious resources over which I doubt if there is any national or multinational corporations that are not already salivating, certainly including American.

Adding to the intimidation an off-putting calculus, of course, is our current conflict with two of Afghanistan's neighbors; Iran and Pakistan. But this is a different topic for a different essay.

This convoluted path to achieving our interests must be acknowledged so that we may intelligently formulate doable strategies aiming at getting most of our troops out by 2014, as promised by President Barack Obama, but without totally missing out on the benefits promised by Mother Nature as she left Afghanistan well endowed with what the world needs now (other than love, sweet love).

Gladly, for everyone, the following was reported by the New York Times on April 23. " - After months of negotiations, the United States and Afghanistan completed drafts of a strategic partnership agreement on Sunday that pledges American support for Afghanistan for 10 years after the withdrawal of combat troops at the end of 2014."


Editor's note: Mohey Mowafy is a professor of health, physical education and recreation at Northern Michigan University.



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