We should leave Afghanistan Immediately
For 13 years now we have been fighting the same fight over and over again without any discernable improvement despite hundreds of billions, and thousands of dead and wounded, in expense. The cycle is the same every year. The Spring Offensive of the Taliban brings in the recruits from the Pakistani Tribal Areas who slaughter a bunch of innocents and bunch of Afghan Police/Soldiers and then are themselves practically decimated in return. The next year, a fresh set of previously 17 year olds who are now 18 year olds floods across the border and the same pattern repeats itself. There is little doubt that the full weight of the US military is wrecking the battle formations of the Taliban, but, from their safe havens, they simply rebuild and send more formations the next year. Its not like its terribly expensive to find a bunch of AK-47's, and fertilizer and wood to make IED's with. We are not in a situation where military force can produce a tangible result. Even if we kill every member of the Taliban that sets foot in Afghanistan, the next year there will be more Taliban crossing the border.
There is a perverse logic to the Pashtu and their code of Pashtunwali that intense poverty and unemployment are feeding into this vicious cycle. Every year, more young men come of age with no real prospects of employment or otherwise gainful means of production.
What do you do with these mostly illiterate excesses of young men? If you are tribal leader, the last thing you want is a bunch of pissed off, unemployed young men sitting around waiting for an excuse to start fighting. It makes far more sense to send them off with the Taliban. If they do not come back, such is the will of Allah. If they do? They come back a proven warrior, a position of honor in Pashtunwali, and they have developed connections and prestige that the Tribe can exploit. There is an incentive to send as many, particularly ‘unable’, young men off to war. The more that return with honor, the stronger the tribe. And the undesirables? They tend to sort themselves out.
What would you do with a man who was so stupid he would turn himself in to collect a reward? I will submit that this man being in such a position was no accident – with tribal leaders essentially hoping the Darwinian aspect of war would solve the problem for them. And it did.
The horrific violence we visit upon the Taliban is not actually damaging them. It is perversely entrenching the very power base of the Taliban. The only way to stop it is to invade and pacify the tribal belt – that would require the invasion of Pakistan. Clearly that is not going to happen. If we are not willing to take the military action necessary to change the dynamic, then it makes no sense to pretend that the military needs to be engaged here.
We can begin building the strategic outlook for this as well. Pakistan, under Zia Ul Hac, created a strategic vision in which, rightly or wrongly, Afghanistan is critical. Despite mounting evidence that the interference of Pakistan in Afghanistan has created problems for Pakistan rather than solved them, the dogmatic vision on Afghanistan continues. Our military actions have not changed this dogma. Pakistan is well aware that its northern border essentially bifurcates what is nominally Pashtunistan. With the rise of the Pakistani Taliban, there is little doubt that the young men currently being slaughtered in Afghanistan will simply be aimed south once the US leaves. In fact, there is mounting evidence that the central government we are establishing in Kabul is eyeing the same tactic in reverse.
We are on one side of blood feud in which the two sides will raid the tribal belt for Soldiers to inexhaustibly send against one another. We support one side, while all almost all logistical support flows through the other side who routinely uses it to exact leverage on a process that increasingly inimical to our desired end state in Afghanistan. No one is even talking about how to manage or shape this reality. We continue to send combatants and equipment for no discernable reason whatsoever.
Even projecting enough force into the situation to be relevant is extraordinarily expensive in cost of both treasure and blood. What do we have to show for it?
A government rife with corruption and cronyism? A government unable to provide basic services to the vast majority of its citizens? A government distrusted by its own people and largely dependent upon the real or perceived threat of US military violence to stay in power? A government that is adversarial to our interests? Is there any point in spending billions of dollars more in delaying the rivalry that is coming?
Make no bones about it, the regional players see the end game coming.
India wants to ensure that the tit for tat between Afghanistan and Pakistan continues as long as possible. That protects Kashmire from the same processes that wrecked havoc there prior to 9-11. The fighting keeps a Pakistan focused north, and away from the Line of Control where fighting erupts with regularity. If anyone in Washington grasps this realpolitik reality, they are staying mum on it in a case of abrogating national interest.
The strategic effects for the US go well beyond the typical regional players. With Russia getting snitty over Ukraine, we must bear in mind that Russia is the only other logistical input aside from Pakistan into Afghanistan. The Russians clearly have no qualms about exercising that influence, knowing full well that cutting off that stream will had Pakistan virtual control of the situation – and we know Pakistan will use it. THis gives Russia, not us, tremendous strategic advantage.
In fact, the Taliban blame Al Qaeda for what happened after 9-11. Prior to that, the Taliban controlled 90% of Afganistan in a fulfillment of their messianic vision. Then, along came the B-52's.
Thanks Pro for instigating this open debate. I would like to apologise as I haven't has time this past few days to research the issue, I will provide a brief argument in this round and will fill out some more in the next.
The resolution has set the Burden of Proof in Pro, but I will offer my own case for remaining in Afghanistan, or at least against an immediate withdrawal of troops from the country.
The reasons for remaining in Afghanistan extend a long way beyond the US's perceived knee-jerk reaction to the 9/11 attacks and to serve justice for said attacks. The country as it stands now is economical, but currently unstable.
C1. Leaving Afghanistan now would leave Afghanistan vulnerable to Taliban insurgency
C2. US forces currently play an important role in training & maintaining the Afghan security forces
As it stands, many commanders fear a large portion of huge Afghan security forces will desert if the US forces withdrew. Leaving the state in an increasingly vulnerable state. While the Taliban in the country have been largely pushed back, numerous other groups would readily seek to take power if given the opportunity. 
C3. Lessons learned from Iraq
Our complete withdrawal from Iraq is pretty clear evidence of what is likely to occur in Afghanistan if we left now. Afghanistan is most assuredly in an even more unstable situation than Iraq was when troops were withdrawn. What we see now in Iraq are a steady increase in sectarian violence, with car bombings, domestic attacks increasing with militant Islamic groups operating with increased impunity.
I again apologise for this short round, I will have much more time next week so will offer cogent rounds then. Back to Pro!
My opponent has singularly failed to address any of the salient points in the first round.
P1: 13 years of warfare have done nothing to defeat the Taliban. The Taliban continue to build up new forces in their safe havens in Pakistan, where they can cheaply build new armies and return with new forces the next year.
P1A: Only the invasion of the Tribal Areas will eliminate this threat. Pakistan will not, and we will not invade Pakistan to stop it. The same cycle continues endlessly.
P2: The tribal dynamics actually encourages the above cycle, with excess young men being sent to ride the tribe of unemployed young men, and returns warriors who are used to further tribal politics in the ungoverned areas. We do nothing to change this.
P3: The military cannot change this. The current battlefield conditions are doing nothing to change the dynamic. Every spring the same thing happens again, despite numerous press reports of ‘improved’ conditions. Continued military engagement will not change this dynamic and will, at best, merely delay the next chapter of Afghan violence.
P4: It’s a strategic drain.
P4A: Pakistan and Russia and being handed significant strategic influence over our forces by virtue of the logistical lines that must cut through their territory to sustain the fight.
P4B: The India-Pakistan rivalry is playing out in Afghanistan. Afghanistan, to stabilize itself, is using training, money, and weapons from India, and is establishing its own safe zones to send tribal elements against Pakistan in return. We are in the middle of a blood feud with no clear trajectory or possible gain for the US.
P4C: Afghanistan is achieving nothing for us on the strategic scale, its sucking up intellectual, economic, and military forces and having a hobbling effect on our strategic deterrence. China and Russia are both seizing upon that.
P5: The Al Qaeda ‘threat’ is greatly diminished, and is unlikely to be a threat again. If it is, the Taliban, who seek to rule Afghanistan, will be very vulnerable to our strategic air power, just as they were in the immediate aftermath of 9-11.
My opponent appears have tossed out responses without engaging in the subject.
C1: Afghanistan is already vulnerable to the Taliban insurgency. The Taliban are conducting operations across the country with virtual impunity. Unless we destroy their safe havens in Pakistan, that impunity will be there indefinitely. Neither we, nor the Pakistanis have the will to do so. Without doing so, we are condemning our Soldiers to die needlessly to have absolutely no effect on the Taliban insurgency at all.
C2: US Training. Who exactly are we training? To what end? In sharp contrast with Iraq, where we were able to bring in Suna/Shia and even Kurds under the same national movement to restore order, what exists in Afghanistan? My last tour there, the Afghan forces remain largely ethnic and tribally pure. Working with Tajiks in largely Pashtu areas it was clear that the tribal animosity is quite real. The police forces are often barbaric, if local. Empowered over their people, they often brutalize, rape (no joke), and other wise extort the local people who are powerless to do anything least US forces send in massive military responses.
As we transition, we are shrinking these forces, because the expense of maintaining them is too much for the Afghan economy to sustain. Loosening these armed and trained men back to their tribal homelands – where they will no doubt be employed, and not by the government.
And what happens when we finally do leave? Will the Tajiks just lay down arms and go home? Will the Uzbek’s? Or will the same thing happen as happened after the Soviet invasion? The Soviets too left behind advisor forces and propped up the post invasion regime. All the indigenous forces eventually descended into a massive civil war that Soviet training enabled, and the neighboring powers, Pakistan, Iran, and even Russia continued to flood the forces to advance their desires through proxy. What exactly is our training and steady flow of money actually accomplishing here?
C3: Although the situation in Iraq is not good, there is, as I wrote this a functional parliamentary system, a functional central government, and a rebuilding effort well underway. None of these exist in Afghanistan. The central government is corrupt on a massive scale, where the goal is to amass as much money as quickly as possible through bribes and other forms of corruption and then fleeing to Pakistan or the Gulf. Holding up the rickety shack of Afghani governance is not a path to success.
If we look at Afghan History, we clearly see what happens in political transitions. The power brokers of the previous regime, literally and bloodily, fight over the spoils. This happened after the Iron Emir died, this happened when the last King of Afghanistan was overthrown. This happened when the Soviets switched leaders during the invasion. The Afghan Civil War that followed the Soviet withdrawal was no shock to the Afghans. The revenge of the Northern Alliance when we overthrew the Taliban was hardly a shock. The Taliban can, and are, easily manipulating the tribal alliances that they are familiar with and we, largely are not. While we favor the Badrakhi tribe, the Isaakzai (vegetable people) are exploited by the Taliban.
Its not a matter of our ability to prevent this, its about when its going to happen. We shoved ourselves into a tribal blood feud we did not understand, and were often lead down dark and bloody paths in support of a tribal policy we did not understand. That has left behind massive grievances, and the tribes are already looking for the post invasion reality – there are scores to settle. Does it make sense for more American money and blood to be spilt to … possibly delay the inevitable?
Conclusion: I hear Afghanistan being called the Graveyard of Empires or Unconquerable. The reality is that almost any idiot can shoot their way into Afghanistan. Once they are there however, they discover the same things Afghans already know: The place is ungovernable. It’s too remote. Too poor. Too little infrastructure. Too riddled with corruption. Too rife with rivalry. Peace exists only so long as the major tribes wish it to, and that requires someone with the skill to balance their desires – and that is a desire no foreign power wishes to meddle in much less master. Without doing so, we are but unwitting puppets supplying someone else’s game.
Simply put, Afghanistan is going to be what it is going to be. Wasting more money, asking someone else’s son or daughter to die to have absolutely no effect on the situation is pointless. We need to stop pretending that we are getting anything out of the sunk cost fallacy of Afghanistan. Its time to leave. There is simply no point in continuing to fight a fight we don’t want to win.
I apologise to Pro for wasting his time. I have done some more research on the matter, and just don't fine the topic interesting enough to construct a good stance on.
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