Hughes: Three cheers to ending senseless wars

Following 9/11, we commenced 20 years of expensive, fruitless nation-building at the cost of far too much American blood.

U.S. Army Sgt. Zachary Simmons, of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, provides security during an area reconnaissance mission in the Zabul province of Afghanistan. (U.S. Army/Flickr)

The decision to declare, continue, or end war is primarily a political one, granted exclusively to Congress by our U.S. Constitution, not to the Executive, and certainly not to military and intelligence community advisors, regardless of their knowledge of boots-on-the-ground conditions. The latter should inform the decision, not determine it.

The U.S. military response to 9/11 began one month after the attack. By December 2001, the Taliban and Al-Qaida in Afghanistan were largely defeated. That should have ended America’s conventional operations in Afghanistan. Instead, we commenced 20 years of expensive, fruitless nation-building at the cost of far too much American blood.

While President Joe Biden’s deadline of Sept. 11, 2021 is obtuse, the decision to withdraw all American conventional forces from Afghanistan is the right one. Indeed, former President Donald Trump’s instincts were correct when he announced in July 2017 he wanted to withdraw immediately. Unfortunately, the military industrial complex around him persuaded him to alter course.

We don’t need thousands of conventional troops in Afghanistan for 20, 30, or 50 years to train and equip the Afghan military; a few dozen Special Forces personnel can accomplish that task in weeks or months, as described by George Crile in his book, “Charlie Wilson’s War.” If, 20 years in, we’re still “training” the Afghan military, one must conclude things are so wrong in Afghanistan that no amount of effort will solve it.

Withdrawal doesn’t mean we’re giving up that part of our enduring struggle against Al-Qaida and other terrorist actors. We’ll continue to do so by other means from other locations. Our intelligence and timely, global military strike capabilities are vast, overwhelming, and deterring. Whether this administration has the acumen and attention span to use them correctly remains to be seen.

The American failures preceding 9/11 — the Battle of Mogadishu (1993), The World Trade Center bombing (1993), the USS Cole attack (2000), and others — were preventable failures of Bill Clinton, who was too engaged in poker and other pursuits to take out Osama Bin Laden, as described by Lt. Col. Buzz Patterson in his book, “Dereliction of Duty.” We should pray this administration is focused on the task and avoids the mistakes of the Clinton era.

Some defend the status quo by noting that the current force in Afghanistan is “minuscule” compared with what we have in Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, Qatar, or the UK. Well, I say we should do a comprehensive look at our global force structure and strategic positioning, and begin a timely drawdown — bring as many of our troops home to America as we can.  Let them enjoy their own country and stimulate our economy, rather than those of Europe and elsewhere.

Three cheers to ending senseless, endless wars, and bringing our fighting men and women home!