New Year, Same War: A Response to the President’s Announcement on Afghanistan Troop Levels

While President Obama is correct to call for a change of strategy in Afghanistan, his actions do not match his rhetoric. A token withdrawal that leaves 90,000 U.S. troops in place through the end of this year and tens of thousands of troops in place for years to come does not meet the President’s promise of significant troop reduction, and it certainly doesn’t foreshadow a foreseeable end to the war in Afghanistan.

Simply removing the 30,000 “surge” troops from Afghanistan means that by the end of 2012, we will be in the exact same position we were in late 2009. Tens of thousands of American soldiers will continue to fight a war that policymakers now realize and insist can only end with a political solution, not a military solution.

By failing to significantly drawdown the number of troops in Afghanistan, the President will continue to needlessly risk the lives of American soldiers. Over 1,600 American soldiers have been killed and over 11,000 have been wounded in Afghanistan over the last decade. Despite being 18 months into the “surge,” our casualties are in fact increasing.

Experts estimate that there are no more than 100 al Qaeda members remaining in Afghanistan. In other words, for every one al Qaeda member, the U.S. is currently committing 1,000 troops and $1.2 billion a year. With rising deficits, unfunded domestic needs and a weak economy, the United States simply can no longer afford to spend billions we do not have for a war we do not need. This reduction in troop strength will only correspond to a minimal reduction in costs to American taxpayers.

Continuing the current strategy for the war in Afghanistan diverts our national security resources from other, more imminent threats, provides a false sense of security and wastes limited American resources.