Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel published last week in the Washington Post a no nonsense assessment of America’s situation in Afghanistan.
Read the entire oped, but the zingers are that General Stanley McChrystal has acknowledged that there is a stalemate in Afghanistan now. This means that after an increase of nearly 16,000 troops of the Obama-pledged 30,000, the U.S. is not seeing a shift in its fortunes.
Marja is a mess, and Kandahar lurks out there as a potentially very messy unknown.
Vanden Heuvel writes:
There is a sense of Taliban momentum — even Gen. Stanley McChrystal recently declared, “Nobody is winning,” and military officials are now minimizing expectations for the upcoming Kandahar offensive. The highly touted operation in Marja that began three months ago has failed to dislodge the Taliban.
The continued occupation of a fiercely independent and tribal Afghanistan — as well as the death of tens of thousands of civilians — engenders anti-Americanism and fuels terrorist recruitment. Military operations have also pushed violent jihadists across the border and further destabilized a nuclear-armed Pakistan — a far greater threat to our national security than any tenuous al-Qaeda “safe haven” in Afghanistan.
Finally, focusing so many resources on Afghanistan — where al-Qaeda is now minimally present — diverts vital resources from other urgent security needs, including economic recovery at home. For the first time, the monthly cost of the war in Afghanistan exceeds what we spend in Iraq — $6.7 billion per month, compared with $5.5 billion in Iraq.
At the end of May, appropriations for both wars will reach over $1 trillion — mostly borrowed money that we’re not investing at home. Upcoming congressional hearings on veterans care will demonstrate the human costs. No wonder a majority of Americans — 52 percent — believe the war “is not worth its costs,” according to a recent Washington Post poll.
The real GDP of Afghanistan is just about $14 billion.
And at current levels, the United States is spending nearly half the entire GDP of the nation in just 30 days — that’s right, half Afghanistan’s entire GDP!
This simply makes no sense. This is a huge misallocation of resources even if one believed that Afghanistan did represent a vital national security problem for the US. If one wanted to change the economic vector of the country, preferential trade and access to European, American, and Japanese markets would be one way to change the country’s course — though there would be politically consequential disruptions to firms and labor in the US that should receive impact support.
The costs would be trivial compared to what the Pentagon is demanding for a job that it is not designed for and in which it is not succeeding.
— Steve Clemons