Monday, October 14, 2013

The Great Wall of America: The 8th Wonder of the World?

The Toll of Postponing American Retrenchment from Afghanistan
This past Saturday after days and weeks of high speculation Secretary of State, John Kerry, reached a draft agreement with Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai on the role of US involvement in Afghanistan after 2014. 
 What is the matter of this bilateral security arrangement?
  1. Afghanistan's political and tribal leaders must not subject American troops to Afghan Law. 
  2. The United States counter-terrorism operations conducted on Afghan soil must respect Afghan Sovereignty.
The main idea behind these arrangements is to discuss the future role of US military engagement in Afghanistan and a transition period.  The Center for Strategic & International Studies released a report on the prospects of US spending transitioning from military expenditure to developmental aid. The findings of the report indicate that the most aid came after the 2009 insurgency and that most of it was not developmental: "The data only tell the amount of money made available of a total category basis. They do not tell how much money actually reached Afghanistan, they do not tie spending to any clear objectives, they did not reflect any effective contracting and auditing system, and there are no measures of effectiveness or success." The graphic below from the report indicates:

That America does not have any measures of effectiveness or success with its military defense spending in Afghanistan is not what Americans want to hear while their country is on the verge of becoming the first major Western country to default since Nazi Germany in 1933.

Is protecting the "Great Wall of America": the deployment of military assets in large bases near enemy borders, worth it? Or will history look back at US hegemony in Afghanistan and label us a wonder and wonder why we trenched our money and American troops so long on foreign soil with reports indicating no success or effectiveness.

In their 2011/2012 Foreign Affairs, Joseph Parent and Paul McDonald indicate that a policy of retrenchment:
1) Would shift commitments & resources from peripheral to core interests
2) Reduce the overall burden of defense
3) Allow America's allies to assume more collective responsibility in improving their own security capabilities and allow everyone to further common goals of Democracy, stability and trade.

The graphics below indicate where US Troops come from all over the country and where they sacrificed their lives in Afghanistan- all for no effectiveness and no success when it comes to their country's investments in securing their national interests and the inevitable transition in Afghanistan from US troop withdrawal. After all the American lives lost, the Obama Administration still faces incredible pressure to justify all the agreements and future planned spending. What the United States needs to do is be like the functioning democracies it wants to see in the Middle East and focus on economic stability, growth and progress at home. Hamid Karzai did not want to make any agreement that would not satisfy his country people. Meanwhile, US leadership continues to let American lives take on the toll of casualties in a country that didn't even provide the US jurisdiction over its soldiers (and supposedly still doesn't until this draft agreement is finalized).

The steps the administration is taking to pull out in 2014 echoes a retrenchment policy stance in Afghanistan. Congress demanded that the administration announce its plan this past summer in regards to the number and status of US forces in Afghanistan. And it seems that the administration is continuously working to reducing its military footprint in Afghanistan since the first Obama administration in 2008. America should not fall to the trap that Parent and McDonald stressed two years ago, a pattern of over-consumption, over-extension and over-optimism. Because after all, retrenchment starts with pulling troops out of Afghanistan, creating better measures for assessments of costs and benefits for maintaining the Great Wall of America in Afghanistan, but it ends when America can take the monies saved and spend it here on American soil and bolstering the economy at home. 

The US should not focus all its attention on the wall it has built in Afghanistan but focus on building the Great Wall of America on American soil, one that truly allows us to prosper economically, more effectively handle foreign threats and not have young American men and women pay for it with their lives.

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