Afghanistan: This War Won’t Work

This article was distributed by Minuteman Media and originally appeared on Common Dreams on 1/25/10.

The recent Taliban attacks on Kabul provide another wake-up call about why this war in Afghanistan simply isn’t going to work. It won’t bring security to Afghans. It won’t turn Afghanistan into a democracy. And it won’t make us safer.

In fact, the war killed more people in Afghanistan last year than the year before—40 percent more civilians, according to the United Nations. And the body count this year is already shaping up to be higher than last year. That goes for U.S. troops too.

And President Obama’s escalation, the 30,000 new troops he just announced he’s sending to Afghanistan? That’s not helping either. The Taliban have mostly stayed in the countryside, based in the small villages where almost 80 percent of Afghans live. But now, after Obama announced that the additional troops would be deployed in Afghanistan’s “population centers,” meaning the cities, guess where the Taliban headed for their most recent assault?

The same thing happens when U.S. troops go after Taliban or al-Qaeda targets-they may or may not kill the “right” person, but they consistently do kill a whole bunch of people guilty only of being in the very wrong place at the very wrong time. The “wrong” people get killed.

And what happens then? The grieving and outraged family, friends, and tribe members of those “wrong” people get angry. Very angry. They start to hate those who killed their family members — us —even if they never did before. And some of them turn to violence when they never would have before. This isn’t new — military and political leaders acknowledge that we’re creating more terrorists than we’re killing. And still the policymakers aren’t hearing it.

So it doesn’t make us safer. And here at home we have another problem too. Alongside the horrifying human cost — young soldiers killed, others coming home with horrifying life-shattering injuries, others returning to face traumatic brain injury and PTSD — we have to pay the financial cost for this war.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have already cost us $950 billion. Yes, BILLION. That’s not counting the $137 billion Congress appropriated for spending between now and September. And that also doesn’t count the cost of those 30,000 new troops going to Afghanistan, which will cost roughly $30 billion more just for their first year.

Altogether, that means by the end of this year we will have spent about $1.08 trillion. Yes, TRILLION — a number so big it’s practically incomprehensible.

What else could we do with that money? Well, just the cost of the current escalation could provide about six million people with health care. Or generate 600,000 well-paid green jobs.

Which is more likely to make us safer? Opposition to the U.S. war in Afghanistan, which peaked at almost 60 percent just a month or so ago, has dropped after Obama’s escalation speech at West Point. We’ve got a lot of work to do to make sure his administration knows this war won’t make us safer, and it just costs too much-too many lives and too much money. Are you listening, President Obama?

Phyllis Bennis directs the New Internationalism project at the Institute for Policy Studies.