Last week, The
New York Times in an article authored by James Dao and Andrew N. Lehren
laid out the impact of the Afghan war on the families of those fighting in a
way that only The Times is able to do. God bless The Times for the article and
the published pictures of the 2,000 Americans who have died in that war
defending our country. It is the longest war in our history. It started as most
Americans will remember on 9/11/2001 when Osama bin Laden, then headquartered
in Afghanistan under the protection of the Afghan Taliban government planned
and executed the acts of terrorism – blowing up the two World Trade Center
towers in lower Manhattan, destroying part of the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
and seeking with a third plane to destroy the Capitol, which plane was
recaptured by its passengers over Pennsylvania where it crashed. All together,
2,977 people were killed, not including the hijackers, 2,606 at the World Trade
Center, 125 at the Pentagon and 246 on the four planes involved, including 40
passengers and crew who died in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
For nearly eleven years, we have waged war in
Afghanistan and have had significant victories. Not long ago, our special
forces Navy Seals killed Osama bin Laden who was living in Pakistan apparently
under the protection of the Pakistani Inter-service Intelligence (I.S.I.), our
supposed ally. According to the C.I.A. director, now Secretary of Defense, Leon
Panetta, we have through various means, including assassinations with the aid
of drones, reduced the number of al-Qaeda personnel to less than 50 in
Afghanistan. However, the Taliban now controls near half of the country and is
able to effectively wage war against the combined American and Karzai
Our government has announced that we intend to
leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014 – more than 2 years away – after we have
trained the Karzai government forces so they can defend their own country.
However, the Karzai government, which is corrupt and has reportedly skimmed off
billions of U.S. government monies intended for infrastructure and military
supplies, does not have the support of the Afghan population except for his own
Pashtun ethnic group, the largest in Afghanistan, and is unlikely to be able to
defeat the Taliban.
The Taliban, a terrorist organization, apparently
did and does have more of the hearts and minds of the Afghanis for the
following reasons: (1) its religious fundamentalism, including the application
of Sharia or Muslim religious law; (2) its lack of corruption or at least far
less than that of Karzai's government; and (3) its better trained soldiers
endowed with the strength of their own convictions. Why would we think it is
our mission in life to keep the corrupt Karzai government in power? This is
sheer madness stemming from our government deluding itself into thinking that
we are protecting the American homeland by preventing the Taliban from taking
over the Afghan government.
The people of Afghanistan, not just those
supporting the Taliban, but those supporting Karzai, hate us. The immediate
affect of that hate is demonstrated by the fact that the very people being
trained in the Karzai army by American military trainers are killing those
American military personnel. The Times article of August 21st reported, "But
this year, another threat emerged: an intensified wave of attacks by Afghan
security forces. In just the past two weeks, at least 9 Americans have been
killed in such insider attacks. For the year to date, at least 40 NATO service
members, most of them American, have been killed by either active members of
the Afghan forces or attackers dressed in their uniforms – already outstripping
the toll from all last year."
An even worse indictment of our policy is that,
according to The Times, "[m]ore active duty and reserve soldiers killed
themselves last year, 278, than died in combat in Afghanistan, 247." They
broke under the pressure of it all. Think of the many who thought of killing
themselv, but are psychologically severely damaged.
Why are we still in Afghanistan? Apparently, we
are there for the same reason the Obama administration hoped to stay in Iraq:
to have a military base forever. While President Obama now points to our having
gotten out of Iraq as a source of pride, we know had he had his druthers, he
would have stayed forever, but the Iraqi government demanded we leave even
before 2014. The Iraqi government is no friend of ours and is part of the
conference of 40 nations now convening in Iran in a show of support for the Iranian
regime. That regime is proceeding with its nuclear program, despite heavy
international sanctions, and is continuing its call for wiping out Israel.
The Taliban is our enemy, but without the ability
to injure the U.S. were we to leave and it became the government. The countries
with the ability to injure us physically here in the U.S. are Pakistan and
ultimately Iran. Both of those countries also provide modern bases for
terrorist networks. We are now approaching what happened in Vietnam when ultimately
we fled Saigon. Remember the sight of helicopters lifting people from the roof
of our embassy and flying them to carriers off the coast? Must we wait for that
to happen here?
General Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff, was recently in Kabul conferring with General Allen, head of our forces
in Afghanistan, trying to come up with a solution to the problem of Karzai
soldiers shooting their American trainers. During his stay in Kabul, his plane
sitting on the tarmac in a highly secure area was attacked forcing him to use
another. The Times of August 19th
described the meeting between Generals Dempsey and Allen as follows:
"After months of military leaders' attempts to tamp down worries over the
killings of American and NATO troops by the Afghan forces serving beside them,
Gen. John R. Allen, the top commander in Afghanistan, called an urgent meeting
of his generals last Wednesday to address the escalating death toll. In a room
crowded with more than 40 commanders, the general underscored the need to
quickly stop the bloodletting that is sapping morale, according to NATO
officials, part of a new emphasis on protecting American and NATO forces after
a spate of attacks that included the killing of six Marine trainers this month.
In one of a series of recent steps, the military decreed that American and NATO
service members should always carry a loaded magazine in their weapons, to save
precious moments if attacked by Afghan forces. Another initiative, now a
priority, is a program named 'Guardian Angel' that calls for one or two
soldiers to monitor the Afghans during every mission or meeting, officials say.
The 'angels,' whose identities are not disclosed to the Afghans, must be
prepared to fire on anyone who tries to kill a coalition service member."
The Times article
of August 21st quoted a Marine Colonel who said: "Everyone was shocked,
including me, that we lost that many guys that quickly,' Colonel Morris said.
'But honestly, me and most of my Marines would have rather come home in body
bags than let the Taliban claim a victory.'" America does not want its
sons to come home in body bags. The American public wants them to come home
alive and only sacrifice their lives to protect Americans. No, America weeps at
the anguish of the mother of a Marine who was killed, quoted in the Times,
" He was the most lovable, caring human being,' she said of her son. 'He
wore his heart on his sleeve. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.'"
This morning, August 27th, Reuters reported,
"[a] rogue Afghan soldier shot dead two U.S. troops in east Afghanistan on
Monday, the NATO-led coalition said, the latest in a series of insider killings
that have strained trust between the allies ahead of a 2014 pullout by foreign
combat troops. The deaths in Laghman province brought to 12 the number of
foreign soldiers killed this month, prompting NATO to increase security against
insider attacks, including requiring soldiers to carry loaded weapons at all
times on base."
Mr. President and Mr. Romney, why do both of you
continue to support our remaining in Afghanistan? Please tell us why.
The Honorable Edward Irving Koch served as a member of
Congress from New York State from 1969 through 1977, and New York City as its
105thMayor from 1978 to 1989.