War in Afghanistan Has Outlived Its Usefulness — Time to Bring U.S. Troops Home

The war in Afghanistan is the millennials generation's Vietnam War. The war has cost 2,000 American lives, nearly $620 billion in taxpayer money, and lasted 12 years. News of yet another attack against NATO forces on Monday raises questions about the legitimacy of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan.

If you listen to the war hawks, you'll hear that the U.S. led war in Afghanistan is important. The presence of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban within the Pashtun tribal region threatens the security and nuclear weapons of Pakistan.  U.S. national security is contingent upon the stabilization of nuclear-armed Pakistan and eradication of Al-Qaeda safe havens in the Afghanistan-Pakistani region. According to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, "giving extremists breathing room in Pakistan led to the resurgence of the Taliban and more coordinated, sophisticated attacks in Afghanistan." By continuing the war, the Taliban are prevented from controlling the region so that Al-Qaeda may pilfer Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and establish a safe haven in Afghanistan to carry out terrorist attacks against the United States.

However, the war in Afghanistan isn't really necessary to defeat Al-Qaeda. It is time for the United States to realize fighting the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan is a futile mission.

Numerous states have been drawn into combat in Afghanistan. From the Brits to the Soviets, the thick mountainous terrain leaves all who enter maimed, broken, and defeated. No foreign army other than Alexander the Great's has ever left Afghanistan a victor, and the United States will be no exception. It seems now the Afghan war is simply a test of longevity to determine who can outlast whom. With no clear measure of success, the United States is jeopardizing the lives of American soldiers by continuing the war. And even though Al-Qaeda has been weakened, the organization continues to proliferate around the world. The United States needs to focus on drone strikes and deploying small, highly skilled special force teams to kill the enemy rather than large military operations. 

Attacks by unmanned aerial vehicles began under George W. Bush in 2004 and have been carried out by the Obama administration as a primary tool in the fight against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. The New American Foundation reports between 1,533 - 2,658 militants have been killed as a result of drone strikes carried out in the Pashtun tribal region of Pakistan. More importantly, drone strikes are responsible for killing several top Al-Qaeda and Taliban commanders, including number two Al-Qaeda leader Abu Yahya al-Libi. Small, highly skilled military operations have had similar success in cutting off the head of the beast. The well-known assassination of Osama Bin Laden in May of 2011 by an elite group of Navy SEALs highlights the effectiveness of using small, highly trained military forces.

Distinct from the clarity presented by the attacks on 9/11, the current legitimacy of the war in Afghanistan is not as clear 12 years later. The once straightforward goal of apprehending and defeating Al-Qaeda is no longer significant. Blows to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban can be achieved without putting American troops in harm's way, and to defeat the enemy will require a much greater force than guns and ammo. Fighting an endless battle in Afghanistan will never change the hearts and minds of jihadists, which is necessary if the United States ever hopes to win the war.