It Is Time To Leave Afghanistan

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Statement
before the Foreign Affairs Committee, United States House of Representatives,
December 10, 2009

Mr. Speaker
thank you for holding these important hearings on US policy in Afghanistan.
I would like to welcome the witnesses, Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry
and General Stanley A. McChrystal, and thank them for appearing
before this Committee.

I have serious
concerns, however, about the president’s decision to add some
30,000 troops and an as yet undisclosed number of civilian personnel
to escalate our Afghan operation. This “surge” will bring
US troop levels to approximately those of the Soviets when they
occupied Afghanistan with disastrous result back in the 1980s. I
fear the US military occupation of Afghanistan may end up similarly
unsuccessful.

In late 1986
Soviet armed forces commander, Marshal Sergei Akhromeev, told then-Soviet
General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, "Military actions in Afghanistan
will soon be seven years old. There is no single piece of land in
this country which has not been occupied by a Soviet soldier. Nonetheless,
the majority of the territory remains in the hands of rebels.”
Soon Gorbachev began the Soviet withdrawal from its Afghan misadventure.
Thousands were dead on both sides, yet the occupation failed to
produce a stable national Afghan government.

Eight years
into our own war in Afghanistan the Soviet commander’s words
ring eerily familiar. Part of the problem stems from a fundamental
misunderstanding of the situation. It is our presence as occupiers
that feeds the insurgency. As would be the case if we were invaded
and occupied, diverse groups have put aside their disagreements
to unify against foreign occupation. Adding more US troops will
only assist those who recruit fighters to attack our soldiers and
who use the US occupation to convince villages to side with the
Taliban.

Proponents of
the president’s Afghanistan escalation cite the successful “surge”
in Iraq as evidence that this second surge will have similar results.
I fear they might be correct about the similar result, but I dispute
the success propaganda about Iraq. In fact, the violence in Iraq only
temporarily subsided with the completion of the ethnic cleansing of
Shi’ites from Sunni neighborhoods and vice versa — and all
neighborhoods of Christians. Those Sunni fighters who remained were
easily turned against the foreign al-Qaeda presence when offered US
money and weapons. We are increasingly seeing this “success”
breaking down: sectarian violence is flaring up and this time the
various groups are better armed with US-provided weapons. Similarly,
the insurgents paid by the US to stop their attacks are increasingly
restive now that the Iraqi government is no longer paying bribes on
a regular basis. So I am skeptical about reports on the success of
the Iraqi surge.


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Likewise, we
are told that we have to “win” in Afghanistan so that
al-Qaeda cannot use Afghan territory to plan further attacks against
the US. We need to remember that the attack on the United States
on September 11, 2001 was, according to the 9/11 Commission Report,
largely planned in the United States (and Germany) by terrorists
who were in our country legally. According to the logic of those
who endorse military action against Afghanistan because al-Qaeda
was physically present, one could argue in favor of US airstrikes
against several US states and Germany! It makes no sense. The Taliban
allowed al-Qaeda to remain in Afghanistan because both had been
engaged, with US assistance, in the insurgency against the Soviet
occupation.

Nevertheless,
the president’s National Security Advisor, Gen. James Jones,
USMC (Ret.), said in a recent interview that less than 100 al-Qaeda
remain in Afghanistan and that the chance they would reconstitute
a significant presence there was slim. Are we to believe that 30,000
more troops are needed to defeat 100 al-Qaeda fighters? I fear that
there will be increasing pressure for the US to invade Pakistan, to
where many Taliban and al-Qaeda have escaped. Already CIA drone attacks
on Pakistan have destabilized that country and have killed scores
of innocents, producing strong anti-American feelings and calls for
revenge. I do not see how that contributes to our national security.

The president’s
top advisor for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, said
recently, “I would say this about defining success in Afghanistan
and Pakistan. In the simplest sense, the Supreme Court test for
another issue, we’ll know it when we see it.” That does
not inspire much confidence.

Supporters
of this surge argue that we must train an Afghan national army to
take over and strengthen the rule and authority of Kabul. But experts
have noted that the ranks of the Afghan national army are increasingly
being filled by the Tajik minority at the expense of the Pashtun
plurality. US diplomat Matthew Hoh, who resigned as Senior Civilian
Representative for the U.S. Government in Zabul Province, noted
in his resignation letter that he “fail[s] to see the value
or the worth in continued U.S. casualties or expenditures of resources
in support of the Afghan government in what is, truly, a 35-year-old
civil war.” Mr. Hoh went on to write that “[L]ike the
Soviets, we continue to secure and bolster a failing state, while
encouraging an ideology and system of government unknown and unwanted
by [the Afghan] people.”

I have always
opposed nation-building as unconstitutional and ineffective. Afghanistan
is no different. Without a real strategy in Afghanistan, without
a vision of what victory will look like, we are left with the empty
rhetoric of the last administration that “when the Afghan people
stand up, the US will stand down.” I am afraid the only solution
to the Afghanistan quagmire is a rapid and complete US withdrawal
from that country and the region. We cannot afford to maintain this
empire and our occupation of these foreign lands is not making us
any safer. It is time to leave Afghanistan.

See
the Ron Paul File

December
12, 2009

Dr. Ron
Paul is a Republican member of Congress from Texas.

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