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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 7/5/10

Why Are We Still In Afghanistan?

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Mary Shaw
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General Stanley McChrystal was recently relieved of his job as the top U.S. general in Afghanistan after being quoted in Rolling Stone magazine as dissing members of President Obama's staff.

Good riddance.

Now I'd like to see Obama bring our troops home from Afghanistan along with McChrystal. Unfortunately, however, that's not going to happen any time soon, as President Obama described McChrystal's departure as "a change in personnel, not a change in policy."

But is the unchanging policy really a good one?

Obama's escalation of our troop presence there was McChrystal's idea, and what did it get us?

It got us a bigger quagmire than ever, with violence up sharply.

Not only that, but the Washington Post has reported that the U.S. military is "funding a massive protection racket in Afghanistan, indirectly paying tens of millions of dollars to warlords, corrupt public officials and the Taliban to ensure safe passage of its supply convoys throughout the country, according to congressional investigators."

Yes, you read that right. They're using our tax dollars to pay off the Taliban -- the same guys we're supposed to be fighting.

Forget about Al-Qaeda. They're now across the border in Pakistan and in cells around the world, no longer concentrated in Afghanistan to any great extent. Bin Laden most likely is not in Afghanistan.

So why are we still there, exactly?

Why do we continue throwing money at this unwinnable mess in Afghanistan when we are suffering through the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression?

Why do we continue throwing money at this unwinnable mess in Afghanistan when we have nearly 10 percent unemployment in the U.S.?

Why do we continue throwing money at this unwinnable mess in Afghanistan when some 17 million American children -- more than one in five across the U.S. -- lack food security?

Why do we continue throwing money at this unwinnable mess in Afghanistan when we are in the midst of the worst environmental crisis in U.S. history and really need to invest in some clean and renewable energy alternatives?

As Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA) said recently, "I'm concerned about the hundreds of billions of dollars we're spending on 'nation-building' in Afghanistan when we need to do some more nation-building here at home."

Maybe President Obama fears looking weak if he initiates a withdrawal from Afghanistan "too soon". But why should it matter, when the Republicans will invent whatever it takes to make him appear weak no matter what he does?

Sadly, though, these are merely rhetorical questions. After all, General David Petraeus, whom Obama has chosen to replace McChrystal, is credited with turning the tide on the Iraq war via the surge there that he had architected. So Obama is probably hoping to replicate that perceived victory in Afghanistan.

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Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist, with a focus on politics, human rights, and social justice. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International, and her views (more...)
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