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No Exit from Afghanistan

NEW DELHI – Despite frequent turmoil and repeated invasions, Afghanistan has remained virtually unchanged for centuries. Nearly 120 years ago, Winston Churchill described the futility of warfare in the region: “Financially it is ruinous. Morally it is wicked. Militarily it is an open question, and politically it is a blunder.” Churchill’s assessment undoubtedly rings true for many United States and NATO officials today, as they attempt to coordinate an exit from America’s longest overseas combat commitment in history.

While the war in Afghanistan may have resulted in fewer American deaths and injuries than previous US wars, the human cost remains substantial – especially after factoring in Afghan deaths and injuries. Moreover, trillions of dollars have been wasted, with the few positive effects of the US-led military intervention already beginning to fade, and its many adverse consequences continuing to destabilize the region.

US President Barack Obama is now trying to negotiate a new “status of forces” agreement with the Afghan government in order to establish how many US troops will remain in Afghanistan and the terms of their deployment. But the reality is that the US is scuttling from a conflict that it has lost, just as it did in Vietnam almost 40 years ago, leaving the beleaguered population to its own devices.

Rather than admit defeat, US officials are resorting to diversionary rhetoric. For example, speaking recently in New Delhi, Secretary of State John Kerry said that the key to stabilizing Afghanistan is to build a “new silk road” connecting it with central Asia – a cynical contrivance apparently aimed at cloaking America’s failure in illusions of future commerce. Kerry’s insistence that the US is not withdrawing, but “drawing down,” is a similarly transparent attempt at manipulation.