A story that’s quietly bubbled to the surface over the last couple of months emphasizes again a point I argued here back in August
: the time has long passed for the United States to get out of Afghanistan.
A report by the Associated Press
last week followed a blog post at the website of Foreign Affairs
, the official journal of the Council on Foreign Relations. The emerging story is that the U.S. is “unintentionally” helping the Taliban by hiring local security and transportation contractors supplied by local warlords.
That is a load of rubbish.
A Senate investigation released last week found that nearly 26,000 Afghan private security contractors are on the payroll of American taxpayers, at least some of whom were also loyal to the Taliban. One local warlord who supplied men for security jobs, nicknamed “Mr. White” after a character in the movie Reservoir Dogs, was killed by U.S. troops after a raid that uncovered a significant cache of weapons, including anti-tank mines.
How do you think Mr. White paid for those weapons?
Reports as far back as 2004 document the Taliban’s use of mafia tactics to shake down farmers, businessmen, and smugglers for protection money. Some of those smugglers now apparently haul supplies for NATO forces in the field, and money once paid to the Taliban to allow opium to move from the fields of Afghanistan to markets in Karachi, Pakistan
now protects trucks hauling fuel, food, and ammunition to forward operating bases -- where American and British soldiers are protected by the aforementioned Afghan security contractors.
Dollar estimates of the amounts paid to the Taliban range from hundreds of millions
to billions of dollars
annually. Why is this allowed to continue? Presumably because American national pride won’t admit that nine years of war has failed to establish effective control over most of Afghanistan.
One American executive told The Nation last November, "We're basically being extorted. Where you don't pay, you're going to get attacked. We just have our field guys go down there, and they pay off who they need to."
In other words, rather than "unintentional" bribery, the Taliban's protection racket is widely known, well-established, and a regular cost of doing business in Afghanistan.
Does this look like a path to victory? Understand what this means: the United States military pays the Taliban not to shoot at its trucks. The soldiers of the most powerful military in history depend on food and water that only gets through to their bases because we pay protection money to the enemy.
And just what do you think the Taliban is doing with the American tax money it collects? Is it crazy conspiratorial raving to suggest that the weapons aimed at our young men and women deployed there might have been purchased with money withheld from our paychecks?
This is no less than insanity. Can you even imagine an American general in World War II suggesting that the War Department pay the Nazis to guarantee safe passage for supply trucks during the Battle of the Bulge?
The only rational course is to cut our losses and come home. Supporters of continuing the occupation cannot formulate a single definable objective in Afghanistan worth another drop of American blood. And before you respond, “avoid national humiliation” is not a valid strategic objective.
Besides, nine years into this war, that ship has already sailed.
The only aspects of the Afghan economy that appear to have benefited from our adventure there are selling security and transportation services to the military and the opium trade. Poppy production increased every year from 2002 until this year, when a fungus reduced the harvest to half of 2009 levels. However, the price of opium has risen to compensate, and the premium prices being paid for this year’s reduced crop will probably entice even more subsistence-level Afghan farmers to plant poppies next year.
No doubt this is an “inadvertent” consequence of the war, too.
As Christians, we want to see people live free from tyranny. TIME magazine apparently tried to play to those sentiments recently with a cover photo
showing a young Afghan woman whose nose and ears had been hacked off by the Taliban above the headline, “What Happens if We Leave Afghanistan”.
Absent from the accompanying editorial arguing for our continued presence there was any acknowledgment that this barbarous act happened with over 90,000 American soldiers in Afghanistan. How many more do we need to keep the Taliban from horribly disfiguring another unhappy young wife?
It sounds cruel, but it’s true: there is no biblical justification for Christians to support the use of military force to save the rest of the world from itself. Our weapons are witnessing, prayer, and fasting -- not bombs, bullets, and bribes.
The situation in Afghanistan in unsustainable and unwinnable. There are no strategic, cultural, or economic reasons to be there (except for opium smugglers and gun runners -- but the U.S. wouldn’t be involved in anything like that, would we
It is time to bring our troops home.