During last week’s State of the Union address, President Trump promised to wind down the operations in Afghanistan, noting that our troops “are warfighters, the best in the world, and they either want to fight to win or not fight at all.” Given that there really is nothing to fight for there but an unreliable Afghan government, Trump said, “We are working to finally end America’s longest war and bring our troops back home!” The deaths of two more soldiers demonstrate that the pace needs to be picked up.
On Saturday, it was announced that two soldiers were killed and six others wounded when a team of commandoes from the 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group were ambushed by the very Afghan National Army forces they were helping in east Afghanistan. Last year, every special forces group suffered at least one fatality in Afghanistan, and that deadly trend is continuing this year: 22 soldiers died in 2019, the most since 2014. Six soldiers have already died so far this year, in only five weeks.
In the case of Antonio Rodriguez, one of the soldiers killed this week, this was reportedly his tenth deployment. What could possibly be so vital in that land that warrants such exhaustion of our special forces?
Not only are we sending our best warfighters into a meat grinder with no defined mission or logical outcome, we are having them fight for a compromised force, making them subject to endless “green on blue” attacks. In the ultimate paradox, we are so invested in building up the Afghan military that we bring thousands of unvetted Afghans to our shores every year under the guise of helping a war effort that in itself is placing our troops in danger from unvetted coalition “partners.”
Several hundred Afghan military trainees have gone AWOL in our country. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) observed that the “limited vetting of Afghan trainees, and the restrictions of the investigatory and asylum processes, may pose a security risk to the United States when trainees go AWOL.” We’ve spent about $81 billion on the Afghan security forces, as part of a nearly $1 trillion price tag for the two-decade war.
This social work in a dangerous combat zone should have ended the first month of the Trump presidency. The president has wanted to put Afghanistan in our rear-view mirror, but despite the bipartisan support for ending this madness, the nearly unanimous voices from our broken national security leadership demanded the president double down. In August 2017, the president announced a surge of troops with no strategy of what to do with them. Two and a half years later, it’s time for the president to follow his better judgement and fire those in the administration who are resisting.
What he is likely hearing is what we continue to hear from many establishment Republican congressmen. They essentially argue, “We need to fight them there, so they don’t come here.”
This is exactly what Reps. Dan Crenshaw and Michael Waltz regurgitated yesterday.
My prayers are with the families of the fallen today. They will never be forgotten. God bless these guys who take the fight to the enemy so that they can’t fight us here. https://t.co/DPQGdmD9FK
— Rep. Dan Crenshaw (@RepDanCrenshaw) February 9, 2020
As a combat veteran in the War in Afghanistan, I’ve seen the realities of this war firsthand.
While the war in #Afghanistan has been lengthy, we must stay on offense in the fight against extremism and terrorism.
If we don’t, terrorism will follow us home. pic.twitter.com/CauNFOq4WN
— Rep. Michael Waltz (@RepMichaelWaltz) February 9, 2020
This is the most absurd line of argument imaginable. It’s only because of the war that we are bringing foreign nationals to our shores in record numbers. The same unvetted Afghans ambushing our soldiers are being brought here in the thousands every year. The number of special immigration visas from Afghanistan has increased over the Trump years, and they are not subject to the refugee cap. We’ve brought in roughly 65,000 individuals who helped us fight “there.”
These swamp congressmen must understand the admonition of the 9/11 commission staff report: that 9/11 was all about visas and immigration because “terrorists cannot plan and carry out attacks in the United States if they are unable to enter the country.” Now, in addition to 2,500 dead and tens of thousands of wounded soldiers fighting “over there,” we have nothing to show for the war other than 100,000 largely unvetted new Afghan migrants.
There is no need to “negotiate” a phony peace deal with the Taliban. We should pull out on our own timetable, keep our naval and air assets in the region for strike and maneuver operations, which allow us to fight to our strengths instead of our enemies’ strengths, and then seal our own border.
The fact that we had a surge in Afghanistan rather than a redeployment of those soldiers to our border under the Trump presidency is a prime example of the failure of conservative media. The president is undeniably unhappy with our presence in Afghanistan. However, the inertia to stay there is one-sided among the voices at the DOD and State. Absent counter-pressure from outside conservatives, who have been distracted by everything but policy issues for the past three years, the president feels forced to stay the course. Thus, by conservatives laying off the administration, they are not only allowing bad policies to continue, but not giving the president the backing he needs to follow his instincts.
For the families of Sgt. 1st Class Javier J. Gutierrez and Sgt. 1st Class Antonio R. Rodriguez, isn’t it time we all apply John Kerry’s famous question: “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?”
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.