Let’s Rethink Military Escalation in Afghanistan Before It’s Too Late

Why is our government sending an additional 30,000 US soldiers to Afghanistan?  So far, not even members of the Obama administration seem able to answer this question.  Last week, The Nation's Robert Dreyfuss had a chance to ask Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen why they're pushing to double our troop presence in Afghanistan.  Both Gates and Mullen said that while they're thinking about the war in Afghanistan in terms of a 3-5 year time frame, their immediate goals are unclear.  What's more, a final decision has not been made yet to commit those additional brigades.


Like Dreyfuss says, the fact that a final decision hasn't been made is key, because it opens the door slightly for a much-needed public debate about what 30,000 more soldiers can possibly achieve.  Some of the big questions that must be addressed include whether those extra troops alone will be able to secure a lasting peace for Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the United States?  That seems highly unlikely, considering each military operation targeting insurgents--like the one yesterday that killed 15 militants and 16 innocent civilians (including two women and three children)--only fans the flame of Afghan fury toward the United States.

Just as important, we must ask how are we planning to pay for this escalation, considering our economic crisis at home and the fact that so much of this war has been paid with borrowed money.  And is committing tens of thousands more troops really the best way to help a war-torn nation with 40 percent unemployment and some 5 million people living below the poverty line?  Proponents of escalation like Karin von Hippel, an Afghanistan expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, suggest that 30,000 more troops will make a psychological impact.  But wouldn't a more profound psychological impact come from to sending humanitarian aid, creating jobs, and getting Afghanistan away from what Secretary of State Clinton recently called a "narco state?"

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