Should the U.S. Get Out of Afghanistan Now?

At what point should we admit that we’re not going to fix everything?

This compelling editorial in the New York Times makes the case that the war in Afghanistan is a lost cause, and that simply pulling out immediately is the least bad of a set of bad options.

Civil war is inevitable in Afghanistan, and by 2016 there will again be helicopters on the embassy roof. No amount of temporary local tactical victories can possibly change this strategic calculus. We should be focused now on how to manage the coming civil war, not telling more lies about the emperor’s new clothes and his imaginary progress. Every American life lost now is sacrificed for political theater with no chance whatever of changing the eventual outcome, and that is obscene.

We’re told that never giving up is a manly virtue, but “never” is an awfully long time. In reality, sometimes we have to acknowledge and cut our losses. After all, if one’s current plan is smashing one’s hand with a hammer over and over, giving up on that plan is probably a good idea. What do you think?


Photo— The U.S. Army/Flickr

About Noah Brand

Noah Brand is a writer and editor, and quite possibly also a cartoon character from the 1930s. His life, when it is written, will read better than it lived. He is usually found in Portland, Oregon, directly underneath a very nice hat.


  1. We should have left Afghanistan nine years ago. The waste of American lives, along with that of countless numbers of Afghans, will be cause for revenge someday. Unless the United States is willing to reinstate the draft, and put all classes in danger regardless of education or social status, I see no reason to continue there, even for another day. The country, like Vietnam, is hopelessly confused and will remain so even after the scheduled 2014 withdrawal. It is not worth one more life–American or Afghan–to continue the charade. I will probably vote for Obama this year, but without the enthusiasm that I had in 2008. For the last four years, we have continued to squander lives and treasure there to no avail. Just declare the mission accomplished and leave quietly–and immediately–with no fanfare.

  2. The question is: What are the primary objectives of your military campaign in Afghanistan?

    In the case of the FDF its just:
    – Securing humanitarian aid and regional stability.
    – Training our troops.
    – Testing new equipment.

  3. Copyleft says:

    No need to “give up”–we simply note that the job is done. The only reason to go into Afghanistan was to get Bin Laden, and we did. Job over, everybody come home.

    • Peter Houlihan says:

      Killing one man was never going to prevent another 9/11. Not that current efforts are improving the situation, but if the Taliban reassert control America may as well have not gone at all.

  4. Peter Houlihan says:

    “After 11 years, the Afghan National Army has maybe 100,000 men present for duty (the rest exist only on paper). More than 40 percent of the entire force evaporates every year from desertions and non-reenlistment, 75 percent is on drugs, and enough are Taliban infiltrators to sabotage the advisory effort. The Afghan army has no logistics, no air force apart from a few old Soviet helicopters, and still not one battalion can fight on its own. The South Vietnamese Army had over one million men, capable logistics and a large, modern air force. In a country one-fourth the size of Afghanistan, it collapsed in three weeks of fighting. ”

    I would not like to be in that group.

  5. I would say that every life lost in these wars has been for the sake of political theater.


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