Perhaps an ironic and lasting legacy to the waste and mismanagement that has been Afghanistan, even as we are finally debating a complete U.S. troops withdrawal, will be the 64,000-square-foot, $34 million military headquarters building “on the dusty moonscape of southwestern Afghanistan that comes with all the tools to wage a modern war,” except troops — a facility the U.S. military has no plans to ever use.
A facility that “some senior officers see…as the whitest elephant in a war littered with wasteful, dysfunctional and unnecessary projects funded by American taxpayers. A hulking presence at the center of Camp Leatherneck in Helmand province, it has become the butt of jokes among Marines stationed there and an object lesson for senior officers in Kabul and Washington.”
Read more about this and other monuments symbolizing “the staggering cost of Pentagon mismanagement” here.
There comes a time when one must say, “Enough is Enough!” ¡Basta!
The mother of Lance Cpl. Gregory T. Buckley, the 1,990th casualty of the Afghanistan War who may have been killed by a member of the Afghan forces he was training, said so about a year ago: “Our forces shouldn’t be there. It should be over. It’s done. No more.”
For whatever it’s worth I felt we had accomplished our mission there when we took out Osama Bin Laden and after virtually destroying the al-Qaeda leadership in Afghanistan and many Taliban leaders.
I felt so when our more-than-ten-year presence did not seem to diminish the atrocities against women in Afghanistan, sometimes committed “directly under the noses” of the Afghan government and the international community, sometimes committed in places in Afghanistan where one might expect that our presence, influence and efforts would bring some change, some enlightenment and would at least prevent such atrocities.
I said so when a letter sent by a young Army Ranger pretty much predicting his own senseless death in Afghanistan, also changed the mind of an 81-year-old Republican Congressman who had consistently voted against troop withdrawals from Afghanistan “or even for setting a timetable for troop withdrawal,” and who — after receiving the soldier’s letter — said “I think we should remove ourselves from Afghanistan as quickly as we can. I just think we’re killing kids that don’t need to die.”
I felt that way when I mourned our 2,000th death in a war that should be over and when I asked, “Who Will Be the 3,000th American Soldier to Die in the Afghanistan War?”
I felt exasperated — sick to my stomach — when I read, and wrote, about the despicable crimes committed against young boys by wealthy and prominent Afghans and by “members of Afghanistan’s security forces, who receive training and weapons from the U.S.-led coalition.” Crimes that are said to be “on the rise in post-Taliban Afghanistan.” Crimes about which Dee Brillenburg Wurth, a child-protection expert at the U.N. mission in Afghanistan, said, “Like it or not, there was better rule of law under the Taliban…They saw it as a sin, and they stopped a lot of it.”
I felt more and more so with every report that our troops were being murdered in increasing numbers and frequency by the very same Afghan security forces who we are helping, training and fighting alongside, supposedly against a common enemy, in so-called “insider attacks” or “green-on-blue” attacks.
I expressed concern, among other, about rampant corruption and backstabbing at the highest levels in the Afghanistan government, incompetence of and disloyalty among its military and police and continuing human rights violations.
I was outraged when the leader of the country for which we are spilling our blood and raiding our coffers, tried to haggle over the price it would take for America to continue to help defend his country, his government and, worse, slandered and accused our troops and our country of colluding with the Taliban to sow fears in order to prolong the presence of international troops in Afghanistan. In the words of U.S. Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, the American commander in Afghanistan:
We have fought too hard over the past 12 years. We have shed too much blood over the past 12 years. We have done too much to help the Afghan Security Forces grow over the last 12 years to ever think that violence or instability would be to our advantage.
I was shocked when I read that at least 22 Afghan children died — froze to death — in wretched refugee camps near Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, in the winter of 2012, and that the French Solidarités International, a French group that has had a limited program of emergency food aid and sanitation in the camps, surveyed mortality rates in recent months and came to the harrowing conclusion that, among children under 5, the camps’ death rate is 144 per 1,000 children.
At the time I said:
Those who claim that we are making progress in Afghanistan generally point to the schools we have built and other “infrastructure projects” (Let’s not forget the $60 million prison we built at Bagram Air Base), at a cost of hundreds of billions of dollars.
That is all good and well. However, Americans need to raise the same question the [New York] Times poses:
“After 10 years of a large international presence, comprising about 2,000 aid groups, at least $3.5 billion of humanitarian aid and $58 billion of development assistance, how could children be dying of something as predictable — and manageable — as the cold?”
Of course I am conflicted about what will happen to innocent Afghan men, women and children when we leave Afghanistan.
When discussing the horrible freezing deaths of those babies and children I said:
For those of us who believe that we should get out of Afghanistan, there is the sad conundrum:
If we stay longer in Afghanistan, will we be able to save these children?
If we leave Afghanistan now, will more children die?
And I have to go back to the words of regional expert Christine Fair who told CNN in the wake of the public execution of the Afghan woman accused of adultery (She was shot nine times “right under our noses”): “We can ask the question what will happen when we leave, but let’s remember that this is actually happening while we’re still there.”
But all this is just lil’ ol’ me.
Fortunately, President Obama has already committed to ending our military involvement in Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
Yesterday, the New York Times reported:
Increasingly frustrated by his dealings with President Hamid Karzai, President Obama is giving serious consideration to speeding up the withdrawal of United States forces from Afghanistan and to a “zero option” that would leave no American troops there after next year, according to American and European officials.
Today, I received a message from Jon Soltz, Iraq War Veteran and Chairman of VoteVets.org:
We cannot want a democratic, stable Afghanistan more than the government and the people in Afghanistan. Ultimately, whether their nation survives is up to them, and keeping our troops there doesn’t change that equation.
The only thing that changes, day-by-day, is the number of American men and women we’ve lost.
Along with Soltz, I know that President Obama will face a lot of opposition, but in my heart and in my mind I feel that we have done enough in Afghanistan and along with the brave Gold Star Mother of Lance Cpl. Gregory T. Buckley, I say, “It should be over. It’s done. No more.”
Image: U.S. soldiers watch from the rear ramp of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter while flying over the mountains in the Khas Uruzgan district of Afghanistan’s Uruzgan province, March 16, 2013. The soldiers are crew chiefs, who along with Afghan commandos, provided security for a government-led shura, or meeting.(Photo DOD)