94 Billion Reasons to Rethink Afghanistan

US airstrikes in Afghanistan like the one that killed over 100 civilians last week have reached all-time destructive highs.  According to Air Forces Central, US warplanes dropped a record 438 bombs in Afghanistan during April.  The number of dropped bombs has increased steadily over the past few months, and just yesterday, Gen. James Jones claimed the US will continue conducting airstrikes despite President Karzai's admonishment that these bombings are counterproductive, turning Afghan civilians against the United States.  Yet as the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan continues to deteriorate, Congress will decide this week whether to approve $94.2 billion in supplemental wartime spending.

Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan like retired Corporal Rick Reyes are meeting with members of Congress early this week, urging them not to approve this massive supplemental wartime funding bill until more critical questions are answered about the war.  We still don't know, for instance, how the Obama administration intends to prevent increases in US airstrikes and military presence from becoming recruiting tools for Taliban extremists or al Qaeda terrorists.  We still don't know how the administration will be able to stop military escalation from further destabilizing a nuclear-armed Pakistan.  Nor has the administration been forthright about benchmarks or an exit strategy, or whether funding more war will hamper US economic recovery.

What we do know is that right now, President Obama appears to be following the failed policies of his predecessor in Afghanistan.  The Carnegie Endowment's Gilles Dorronsoro recently wrote that while Obama's strategy does promise more resources and the chance for a civilian surge, "when considered as a whole, this supposedly ‘new’ strategy amounts to little more than recycled policy from the late Bush years; it is a waiting strategy without any credible long-term objectives. Unfortunately, those who have so far a clear, well coordinated, and coherent strategy are the Taliban."  This grim assessment follows Dorronsoro's earlier findings in Focus and Exit: An Alternative Strategy for the Afghan War, which concluded that the increased military presence in Afghanistan has directly contributed to the Taliban insurgency, and that withdrawing troops would allow us to focus on tracking down any remaining al Qaeda terrorists who have since fled across the border into Pakistan.

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