On March 11 , an American soldier walked into an Afghan village and slaughtered 17 innocent people, most of them women and children, and set their bodies on fire. This is tragic, but it is only one of countless senselessly violent acts that have been committed against civilians in the decade-long war in Afghanistan. Just as tragic is the fact that the war continues, meaning more deaths will follow.
It is time to end this war. Too many people have died, and too many more will die if our troops are not brought home.
Death is an inevitability of any war, but attacks against civilians fall well outside normal consequences, even in wartime, and are especially heinous considering these civilians have absolutely nothing to do with the reasons that American troops are in Afghanistan.
The War in Afghanistan began in October 2001 in response to the 9/11 attacks on the United States, with the stated goal of capturing Osama bin Laden and eliminating the threat of al-Qaeda. Bin Laden was killed in May 2011 and current estimates place al-Qaeda membership at fewer than 100 people in Afghanistan. Yet, the fighting continues.
Public opinion has turned against the war. Nearly 88 percent of Americans favored the war when it began, according to a Gallup poll. Recent polling by the Washington Post shows that support for the war has fallen to 35 percent. Afghans also initially favored American intervention, as they were eager to be rid of both al-Qaeda and its Taliban supporters. Polls suggest that fewer than 30 percent of Afghans now want American troops in their country.
Much of this swing in opinion is due to recent attacks against civilians. Just this year, American troops have committed numerous atrocities. In February, air strikes killed eight people who were believed to be enemy combatants. It was later discovered that they were innocent children. This came on the heels of a video surfacing showing American soldiers urinating on the dead bodies of Afghans. These, like March 11’s tragedy, are things that should not happen. Sadly, they will continue to happen as long as American troops remain in Afghanistan.
Nearly 2,000 American soldiers have been killed since the war began, a number dwarfed by the number of innocent Afghans killed during that time. Exact totals are difficult to determine, but estimates range as high as 17,000 civilian deaths directly related to the fighting, with another 20,000 estimated deaths from starvation, disease or displacement caused by the war.
American arrogance insists that the fighting should continue until the U.S. is victorious. But, this is not a war that can be won. Bin Laden is dead and al-Qaeda has been decimated. To think that anything beyond that can be accomplished is foolish. The only thing that can be achieved by continuing to fight is increasing the casualties on both sides. In that scenario, everyone loses.
President Barack Obama has vowed to withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan by 2014. That is not good enough. American soldiers should be brought home immediately.