BY PABLO ESPINOSA
There must be a permanent U.S. force in Afghanistan of at least 15,000 troops.
After 13 years of combat, the public is tired of war and politicians are unlikely to get elected if they support keeping troops in Afghanistan. However, withdrawing completely might force the U.S. to come back later.
The idea of keeping troops in Afghanistan indefinitely might seems silly to most but the idea that Afghanistan will be a peaceful democratic country without foreign military support is nothing short of comical.
In 1988, the Soviet Union left Afghanistan after an eight-year struggle to support the communist, pro-Soviet government — and an estimated 15,000 Russian deaths. Four years later, Muslim rebels took control of the country.
Fast forward to 2015. President Barack Obama had a meeting on March 24 with the newly elected president of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani.
Ghani requested a slower drawdown of U.S. troops. Obama agreed to leave 9,800 troops in the country for the rest of the year. He had planned to leave 5,600 troops.
With the current campaign in Iraq against the Sunni militants who call themselves the Islamic State, Obama is understandably ready to leave troops for longer than expected to prevent a similar situation in Afghanistan.
The U.S. spent approximately $1 trillion on the Iraq war, with $25 billion of that money going to building the new Iraqi army. But the U.S. failed to understand that you can’t just throw money at a situation, then run away.
The former president of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki, stepped down as one of the conditions for the U.S. to intervene against the Islamic State.
Maliki is a Shiite. When he took office, he started killing and oppressing minority Sunnis who had ruled the country under Saddam Hussein and were promised an active role in government by the Americans.
He fired top military commanders and gave their jobs to Shiite friends who had no military experience and wanted none.
When the Sunnis rose up, the $25 billion army the U.S. spent thousands of American lives trying to build simply collapsed. Today, the Islamic State is using captured U.S. military weapons in Iraq and Syria.
Afghanistan’s Gross Domestic Product was $2.4 billion before the U.S. invaded. By 2013, it had grown to 20.5 billion. The country has become financially dependent on the United States.
The U.S. may continue to financially support Afghanistan but without our troops to train and support the Afghan national army and police, history will repeat itself.
Afghanistan will again be controlled by Islamic extremists and become a base for terrorism.
Espinosa is an Afghan War veteran. He deployed as an infantryman with the 2nd Infantry Division to Kandahar province in 2012.