Public Comment

Commentary: The United States Must Withdraw from Afghanistan

By Kenneth J. Theisen
Thursday October 01, 2009 - 09:23:00 AM

On Oct. 7, 2001 the United States. launched a war of terror against Afghanistan. U.S. leaders are still debating how best to achieve U.S. goals there. Military leaders, including Joint Chiefs Chair Admiral Mike Mullen, Central Command leader General David Petraeus, and General Stanley McChrystal, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, support the further escalation of the war by sending more U.S. troops to Afghanistan to prosecute the “new” counterinsurgency troop-intensive strategy they wish to pursue. It is reported that some of Obama’s civilian aides are arguing for a greater emphasis on attacking al Qaeda leaders with increased special operations missions and missile strikes, including more missile strikes launched against targets within Pakistan. Commander-in-Chief Obama will have to decide on which course to follow. But regardless of which of various strategies is implemented, it is clear that no one in the top rungs of the U.S. government is arguing for the end of the Afghan war. 

  U.S. leaders are continuing a war that is now opposed by a majority of the American public. A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released on Sept. 1 indicated that 57 percent of Americans questioned stated they oppose the Afghan war. The percentage in opposition to the war is the highest ever in CNN polling since the war began. 

  President Obama has repeatedly referred to Afghanistan as a “war of necessity.” The initial invasion was “justified” as a self-defense reaction to 9/11 according to the Bush regime. But a National Security Presidential Directive (NSPD) was submitted to the White House on September 9, 2001 that essentially outlined the same war plan that the United States put into play after the 9/11 attacks. The 9/11Commission Report stated that on Sept. 10, 2001, the Bush administration agreed on a plan to oust the Taliban regime by force if it refused to hand over Osama bin Laden. The 9/11 attacks served as a convenient excuse to do what the United States was already intent on doing—attacking Afghanistan. 

  What have eight years of war accomplished? 

  Thousands of Afghans have been killed and millions continue to be refugees —either within Afghanistan or in nearby nations. The Afghan economy is shattered and Afghanistan is among the poorest countries in the world. Women are still oppressed as they were under the Taliban. This year the Afghanistan legislature passed a law that requires Shi’ite women to get permission from their husbands to go to school, visit a doctor, to work, and to do other ordinary activities. President Karzai who was originally hand-picked by the United States signed the legislation to advance his election chances within Shi’a areas. Government corruption is so extensive that even the U.S. State Department has condemned it. The recent “democratic” elections are still being contested because of massive fraud. War and drug lords are part of the government. One of Karzai’s vice-presidential running mates, Mohammad Qasim Fahim, is a notorious human rights abuser. In many areas such as poverty rates, life expectancy, unemployment, child mortality, life expectancy, and lack of human rights, Afghanistan is near the worst in the world. Afghanistan is number one in opium production which funds most of the various Afghan factions in the ongoing war there. 

  After taking office, Obama escalated the war by sending additional troops to Afghanistan, with 68,000 to be there by November. There are also 38,000 NATO troops present and Afghan puppet forces include 216,000 police and soldiers. As of March 2009, the U.S. military also employed 68,000 “contractors” in Af-ghanistan. These contractors do not include other contractors on the payrolls of the State Department or other U.S. agencies. And despite nearly 400,000 personnel working for the U.S. military, “The insurgents control or contest a significant portion of the country,” according to General McChrystal. So McChrystal wants to nearly double the puppet forces, and increase U.S. forces by up to 45,000 more troops according to various Pentagon “leakers.” 

  In September CIA Director Panetta announced that the CIA is adding extra bases in Afghanistan to support the military buildup in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Since taking office, Obama has asked Congress for more funds to expand the U.S.-run prison in Bagram, which holds prisoners taken in the war of terror in Afghanistan and those captured and kidnapped by U.S. forces and their allies from around the world. Bagram’s record of human rights abuses rivals Guantanamo’s. 

  In addition to escalating the Afghan war, Obama has expanded the war into neighboring Pakistan by launching frequent missile strikes. The United States has pressured Pakistan to attack Islamic militants within the country and civil war has broken out in parts of the country as a result. Continuing to expand the war of terror into nuclear-armed Pakistan is a dangerous proposition. 

  U.S. military leaders openly admit that they are engaged in a “long war” in the Afghanistan region. Depending on which one you listen to, the war will last anywhere from 5 years to a few more decades. Obama claims the United States must fight this war so that the Taliban and al Queda can not retake control of the country. 

  But neither Taliban nor the United States rule, through its puppet allies, is in the interests of the Afghan people. Two historically obsolete and reactionary forces are contending in Afghanistan—the Islamic fundamentalist forces led by the Taliban and the outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system, led by the United States These two forces reinforce each other, even while opposing one another. Supporting the U.S. government to defeat the Taliban and their allies will not advance the interests of the Afghan or American people. 

This war must be ended, not escalated. The U.S. government must withdraw U.S. forces. To this end, World Can’t Wait and other groups are mobilizing for a National Day of Resistance on October 6th. We must deliver a powerful message to the world that people in the United States will not allow their government to commit war crimes in Afghanistan. To help deliver that message, see 



Kenneth J. Theisen is an Oakland resident and a steering committee member of World Can’t Wait.