With Obama’s terrifyingly limited executive experience, he was determined to make it widely known to the American public that he made the right executive decision, in that he voted against the Iraq War in Congress. Therefore it can be inferred that, while not explicitly stated, one of his campaign promises was to keep the United States out of costly, expensive wars. President Obama has most definitely broken this implied campaign promise.
Last year, Obama, as commander-in-chief of the United States military, drafted a strategic plan to increase US troops in Afghanistan by 30,000. These troops would technically be under NATO command. The NATO coalition serves as the 46-country alliance that stands solely against the Taliban and its subordinate insurgent groups with the exception of meager aid from Afghanistan’s security forces. Although 46 countries form the NATO alliance, the US now supplies over 65% of the forces.
What is the cost of this troop addition? According to USA Today, “The Pentagon's military funding request for the first time since the Iraq invasion was larger for Afghanistan — $65 billion — than for Iraq —$61 billion. Obama's troop increase could add $30 billion or more to Afghanistan.” So the Afghanistan War may cost more than the Iraq war annually.
President Obama would justify these costs by claiming something like “Afghanistan is the right war—not Iraq—these are where our real enemies lie.” However, even if the motives for the Afghanistan War are justified, the War in Afghanistan is not because it is ineffective in achieving its goals. Therefore we are wasting money and adding to the federal deficit for a war that does not advance our national security interests at all. Let’s further examine NATO’s goals in Afghanistan and their effectiveness in achieving these goals so far.
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By the way, you won’t see any of this on the news, which is trying to save face for Obama, but all of the following statistics and facts are completely accurate.
One of NATO’s goals is to neutralize the Taliban and bring stability and security to Afghanistan. However, this goal is far from being met. According to the United Nations, “The total number of civilian casualties in the first six moths of this year, according to the human rights section of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), is 3,268- including 1,271 deaths and 1,997 injuries. Of the total number of casualties, 2,477 were attributed to anti-government elements representing 76% of all casualties, up 53% from 2009.” Therefore we can see that violence is increasing, the Taliban’s actions are becoming more aggressive, and stability and security are plummeting. Obviously NATO is ineffective in achieving this goal.
Furthermore, NATO’s presence increases the Taliban’s violence. Our tax dollars actually destabilize the country of Afghanistan. According to the LA Times, “Intensified fighting between insurgents and foreign forces brings a corresponding increase in civilian casualties.” So NATO’s presence actually causes more civilian deaths, increased violence, and a destabilized Afghanistan. Moreover, NATO’s presence causes the Taliban to gain more numbers and therefore more power. According to the New York Times, “The most recent troop buildup comes in response to steady advances by the Taliban. Four years ago, the insurgents were active in only four provinces. Now they are active in 33 of 34.” As we can see, not only has NATO been ineffective in securing Afghanistan and neutralizing the Taliban, but NATO’s presence causes the Taliban to gain numbers and power as well as increase the frequency of its violent acts.
NATO’s second goal is to create self-sustaining, effective Afghan security forces. However, they have been unsuccessful in this as well. First of all, we have to look at NATO’s timeline for building the Afghan forces. They have had almost 10 years to train these forces and are still unsuccessful. They have also pushed their timeline for training the forces back repeatedly; we don’t really know when they’re going to successfully train these forces. Furthermore, currently they have made little progress. According to Greg Bruno of the Council on Foreign Relations, “effectiveness, professionalism, and state of readiness of this security apparatus are uneven. Within police units specifically, drug abuse, desertion, and violence remain persistent challenges. And the army faces issues related to ethnic factionalism and poor civilian oversight. Furthermore, A May 2010 report by the International Crisis Group found many lingering structural concerns, including weak civilian oversight…” As we can see, not only is NATO’s timeline for training forces skewed and untrustworthy, they have been completely unsuccessful even after 10 years.
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Another one of NATO’s goals is to create democracy and instill a functioning government that can bring stability to Afghanistan. However, NATO has been most ineffective in achieving this goal. A corrupt government is still in place that NATO has not done anything about. According to an assessment of Afghan corruption by United States Agency for International Development, “The domestic and international consensus is that corruption has become pervasive, entrenched, systemic and by all accounts now unprecedented in scale and reach. This view is apparent in the country’s declining (worsening) ranking in the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index. Afghanistan fell from a ranking of 117th out of 159 countries covered in 2005, to 172nd of 180 countries in 2007, and finally to 176th out of 180 countries in 2008 - the fifth most corrupt country in the world. As we can see, NATO has not solved the issue of corruption. Since it arrived in Afghanistan almost 10 years ago, the issue of corruption has steadily gotten even worse. If we look at the issue of corruption comparatively to the status before NATO’s presence in Afghanistan, NATO’s presence has not been able to stop the spread of corruption at all. It has only gotten worse since they arrived. NATO has not creating a proper governing body that can bring stability to Afghanistan.
NATO’s final main goal is to decrease the Taliban’s funding by ridding Afghanistan of its opium trade. The Taliban receives more than 40% of its funding from the cultivation of opium. NATO believes that if it decreases the cultivation of opium, it will strip funding from the Taliban and the Taliban will become weaker, so it helps the Afghan security forces to destroy poppy fields. However, this actually leads to the instability of Afghanistan. This is because many farmers rely on the cultivation of opium for their income. When NATO helps to destroy these fields, they take away the income of innocent civilians, which hurts Afghanistan’s economy. This economic downturn leads to more political instability and thus NATO’s failure to stabilize Afghanistan. Furthermore, NATO’s destruction of poppy fields does not actually take funding away from the Taliban. “According to a UN report published in August, opium-traffickers have stockpiled more than 10,000 tons of the stuff, with a street value of billions of dollars. That's enough to satisfy world demand for two years.” So while NATO is destroying the lives of poppy farmers in Afghan as well as hurting Afghanistan’s economy, they are barely making a dent in the Taliban’s budget because the Taliban already has stockpiles and doesn’t need the Opium being cultivated currently. So we can see that NATO hurts Afghanistan’s economy, which leads to political instability, and doesn’t actually neutralize the Taliban.
Why have I presented all of these boring statistics that probably put you to sleep? I did it to show you that Obama is wrong when he says something like “This is the right war. The cost is worth it, unlike the cost of the Iraq War.” NATO’s presence in Afghanistan destabilizes Afghanistan and therefore hurts US national security. This is not the right war and while we’re hurting US national security, we’re increasing the deficit and hurting the US economy. It’s a lose-lose situation that shows Obama’s double standard regarding costly wars. Obama’s implied campaign promise was one that has been broken and covered up by the media to save face, but one day America will realize its mistake. Hopefully it won’t be too late.