Don’t delay exit in Afghanistan

Daily Herald editorial

An exit date of 2014 for U.S. troops to leave Afghanistan cannot come soon enough.

The work our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines have done has brought the country a long way and leaving will not diminish their sacrifices and hard work. The al-Qaida bases are routed. The Taliban government removed. Osama bin Laden killed.

But there comes a point where American involvement in the backward land-locked Asian country becomes more of a crutch than a helping hand.What more can we do? It is their nation. We can train their soldiers, but if the Afghan people do not believe in democracy, ultimately, it won’t hold, no matter how long or short Americans are stationed there.

The recent tragic news of a shooting rampage of 16 Afghan civilians by an American soldier has fueled calls for revenge by Taliban leaders, the same group that ironically has killed innocent schoolgirls for attempting to get an education and continues to attempt and threaten more violence.

Our partner in the country, the nation’s prime minister, is mercurial and difficult to work with. U.S. soldiers urinating on dead Taliban fighters and burning Qurans have hurt our efforts. And Afghans are growing resentful of the U.S. presence, a problem that could jeopardize more Americans there and here and help increase Taliban popularity. And despite all the years of training of Afghan troops, they still maintain a minority part in the security of their own country.

The best Americans can hope for by remaining is to avoid more self-inflicted mistakes. It might be time for military leaders to look at moving up the exit date earlier on the calendar. Leaving doesn’t mean NATO involvement cannot continue at some level. Like it did with Libyan fighters, NATO can provide targeted air support but generally let the native people do their own dirty work of ousting the bad guys. After all, the people of Afghanistan at some point will need to determine their own fate.

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