In Afghanistan, it’s going to be more of the same

Published in the Fort Collins Coloradoan on September 15,, 2017

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before: a newly elected president, after campaigning to remove the U.S. from a military quagmire in a far-off Asia land, quickly reverses his promises and instead escalates our military commitment?

If your answer is no, I’m talking Nixon, Obama and Trump. The only differences seem to be party affiliation, skin complexion and hair color. Sadly, what’s common is the inability to learn from history.

There was at least one thing President Trump said Aug. 21 during his “new strategy” speech that I agree with: I am one of “the American people” who are frustrated by nearly 17 years of war in Afghanistan. The U.S. military intervention has cost us 2,300 dead service members and an additional 17,600 wounded, 31,000 Afghan lives and $780 billion. Operations in Afghanistan cost us $4 million per hour, and that doesn’t include any new troops or equipment. The U.S. has invested $70 billion in rebuilding the Afghanistan military, but Afghanistan's government forces control less than 60 percent of the nation’s territory. U.S. intervention has resulted in large-scale corruption, with Afghanistan third from the bottom in international rankings. $8.5 billion has been spent to battle narcotics, and opium production there is at an all-time high.
Frustration” is an understatement for what most of us are feeling. But our president is now determined to spend even more dollars and lives in what some military experts say may be an unending war. Currently there are 8,400 U.S. military personnel in harm’s way in Afghanistan. The Obama administration, with 30,000 troops, could not bring the Taliban to its knees or the negotiation table. How can Trump and his generals expect to do any better?

Tell the president (https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact) and your members of Congress (https://www.congress.gov) that it is far past the time to start bringing our troops home. Tell them to invest some of those wasted dollars instead on serious diplomacy and development efforts. Let us build up those institutions and reduce corruption so that all Afghans will have something worth fighting for.

Steve Ramer, pastor, Fort Collins Mennonite Fellowship and member of Strength Through Peace