Washington, D.C. December 2, 2015—After fourteen years of deadly fighting that took tens of thousands of Afghan lives and cost over $830 billion, the President announced today that all U.S. troops would be withdrawn from the battle-worn country by next March.
Almost six years to the day that a major troop buildup was ordered in Afghanistan, the President conceded that the plan had fallen far short of expectations. Latest reports from Kabul indicated that insurgents had, in fact, taken over most government offices and operations, and that no support remained for U.S. intervention. Since U.S. forces entered the country in the fall of 2001 over 85,000 Afghans have been killed in fighting. U.S. casualties have topped 19,000, including over 4,500 dead, largely as a result of intense fighting since the spring offensive earlier this year. Of the ninety thousand U.S. troops remaining in the country, fewer than 5,000 will remain into the summer of 2016 to complete the pullout.
The Afghan conflict has been one of the longest and most financially draining in U.S. history. Opposition to the war across party and political lines has built significantly in the U.S. since President Barack Obama announced a buildup of troops in December 2009. Known as “Obama’s War,” the conflict has sparked massive protests in major cities nationwide and is thought to have contributed to the sweeping loss of control of the Congress by Democrats beginning with the 2012 elections. In 2009 it cost U.S. taxpayers a million dollars a year to keep one soldier in the country; costs now top $1.2 million per solider. Annually war costs exceeded $50 billion beginning in 2011 and contributed significantly to the current deficit of $60 trillion.
The vaunted counterinsurgency strategy implemented under the leadership of General David Petraeus in the early years of the war proved, in the end, to be unsuccessful in the warlord-driven Afghan conflict. While the specter of Vietnam hung over the conflict from its beginnings, military experts repeatedly quashed comparisons and assured successive Administrations that the new strategy would work. It did not. Vietnam-era veterans themselves were increasingly vocal in their opposition to the Afghan conflict, as were Gulf War and Iraq War veterans who have become increasingly influential in Congress. The loss of Pakistan to the Taliban in 2013 also contributed to the revamping of U.S. policy in the region, with conventional and nuclear warfare now dominating long-range, strategic planning in military circles.
The President is scheduled to address the nation from the Oval Office tomorrow evening, when an in-depth explanation of the troop pullout is expected, as well as an outline of the new military strategy for the region. In a statement released by the White House earlier today the President said, “This is neither a loss, nor a failure of policy or will. Had I and previous Administrations known of the dramatically changing circumstances to be expected in this region, it is doubtful that the U.S. would have entered Afghanistan in 2001. I look forward to talking with the nation tomorrow about the withdrawal of our troops.”
Now you know, Mr. President, now you know.