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      Monday
      May092011

      With Afghanistan, a moment of opportunity for Obama

      This op-ed originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times on May 5, 2011.

      Camp Passab in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan. ( Paula Bronstein / Getty Images / April 25, 2011) President Obama has now gained the moral and political capital to responsibly end the U.S. military interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq. With an average of 30 to 50 Americans being killed each month in Afghanistan, the total will be well over 1,000 on Obama's watch if nothing is done. In addition to saving lives, removing 60,000 troops from Afghanistan in 2011-12 would also save about $70 billion a year in tax dollars.

      The targeted killing of Osama bin Laden is powerful evidence that terrorist threats, both real and hypothetical, can be more effectively suppressed by special forces operations than by deploying hundreds of thousands of American soldiers on the ground.

      The Bin Laden operation proves that a counterterrorism strategy focusing on intelligence, airstrikes and special forces units, as advocated by people such as Vice President Joe Biden and conservative columnist George Will, would be an effective deterrent against any new clandestine cells seeking to launch attacks against the United States.

      If we are not sending ground troops into European cities like Berlin or London, where terrorist plots are also being conceived, why are there 150,000 American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq? By the strange logic of intervention, shouldn't NATO be occupying Europe?

      If the answer in Afghanistan is to fight the Taliban insurgency, that's not a national security threat by any definition. And if the Taliban, for some reason, should wish to host a revived Al Qaeda, U.S. intelligence and special forces would be able to handle the problem.

      In Iraq, the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, already the largest in the world, is expected to double its staff over the next year to 16,000, not counting a small army of private contractors. In 2003, a supposed threat in Iraq against the United States was trumped up to justify the U.S. invasion. But such a threat is remote and does not require keeping troops in the country as unwelcome occupiers.

      Pakistan is another matter. Critics of intervention like myself believe the U.S. only inflames anti-American sentiment, kills innocent civilians and feeds the insurgents by escalating drone strikes there. (Obama, interestingly, rejected such an aerial attack option to get Bin Laden). But it is impossible politically for Obama to pull back from Pakistan now that so much public and congressional opinion is inflamed against that country's possible protection of Bin Laden. Ending the long and secret war in Pakistan will take further public debate, but it could begin with power-sharing talks over Afghanistan.

      There is no excuse for not beginning to end these wars one at a time, at vast savings in lives and billions in tax dollars. This is Obama's moment of opportunity. Let the hawks in the Pentagon and the Republican Party call for endless war in Afghanistan and Iraq. Obama can campaign on ending two quagmires, and on breaking the momentum of the long war on terrorism that some propose. Indeed, the Democratic National Committee, even before the weekend mission against Bin Laden, passed without dissent a resolution by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) calling for a significant withdrawal from Afghanistan starting this summer.

      The president must announce two pivotal decisions quickly. First, he has to decide whether to say no to those clamoring for just a token withdrawal from Afghanistan starting in July. He should say yes to the peace bloc of Americans who strongly support the phased withdrawal of 50,000 to 70,000 troops from Afghanistan starting in July and ending more rapidly than the president's hazy goal of 2014.

      Second, he has to face down those pushing for the Iraqi government to request that our troops stay past the December deadline. The president should say no to this Iraq lobby, knowing that a residual force of Americans would provoke a new cycle of anti-Americanism in the streets and in Iraq's parliament, and threaten Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's fragile regime.

      This is a unique moment for rank-and-file and congressional antiwar forces to seize every opportunity to prevail on the president to make the right decision.

      Tom Hayden has taught courses at Scripps College on "the long war on terrorism," counterinsurgency, Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. He is the author of "The Long Sixties: From 1960 to Barack Obama."

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      Reader Comments (1)

      The TAPPI Pipeline has prevented the troops from returning home contrary to what Americans are being told. Not until that mission is finished will the troops will return. There is to much money already invested in this venture to pull out. This is another project from the Industrial Military Complex.
      "General Dwight D. Eisenhower warned about the Industrial Military Complex in the 1950's, and nobody listened. The IMC is "The Government within the Government " running this country. Presidents and staffers come and go but the money people investing in the IMC call the shots.

      President Bush and his side kick Dick Cheney pulled off the greatest coverup of business operations run out of the White House in US history, by declaring Energy Policy a matter of National Security. That act prevented discussion of the real truth about Afghanistan & Iraq and the media was instructed to stay clear as well.

      Afghanistan = The TAPI pipeline, a 42" high pressure gas main from the largest source of Natural Gas on earth beneath the Caspian Sea, to the waiting Plastics Industry in South east Asia. Nothing more nothing less. The truth about 911 is in the pipeline deals beginning with the Clinton Administration. During that time the Taliban reneged on allowing the pipeline through their land. When you send special Ops forces into Afghanistan to kill Taliban members who renege on a business deal and get attacked in return what do you expect ?

      Iraq is just as sick. Karl Rove said "We had to stop Saddam because he was manipulating the oil Market ". That's right he was selling oil cheaper than the Saudis, getting back at George Sr. for Desert Storm. Saddam was hitting them right in their pocketbook and they couldn't stand it. Why do you think the Saudis met with George Herbert Walker Bush at 'Walker Point' in Maine before the Iraq invasion ? It sure wasn't for tea !

      These SOB's disgust me. My heart goes out to all the poor mothers and fathers that lost their children in these wars.
      They were lied to and told that our Freedom depended on it. Biggest line of CRAP ever put against the American people.

      We have our FREEDOM. The troops only function is to protect the contractors and engineers involved in the 'Silk Road' Pipeline known as the TAPI Pipeline. Guaranteeing it's safety was a pre requisite to and for funding by the World Bank and others. UNOCAL the original owner of the development rights to Natural Gas in the Caaspian Sea, now hides behind a consortium of Gas & Oil companies participating in the venture. The plight of Iraq also hangs in the balance. The competition has been eliminated, Saddam is dead and now the world will pay dearly for oil.

      May 5, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteranthony samsel
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