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Don’t Throw Afghanistan to the Wolves
The murder of Alexandros Petersen — and the U.S.’s lack of commitment.

U.S. Army soldiers board a C-130 leaving Forward Operating Base Salerno in Afghanistan.

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On the evening of January 17, Taliban terrorists launched yet another attack in Afghanistan. This time the target was a popular restaurant in downtown Kabul that caters to Westerners and is fondly called “Rick’s Café.” Terrorists sprayed bullets from their AK-47s and a suicide bomber blew himself up, and in the end 21 people were murdered, including my friend and colleague Alexandros Petersen. Alex was an important and gifted scholar and voice in the international arena, on whose keen observations the international community had come to depend.

If Alex’s murder and that of the other people at “Rick’s” can serve any purpose, let it be a teaching moment for the Obama administration and Congress, to reveal that their policies on Afghanistan are not working.

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U.S. government policies vis-à-vis Afghanistan, particularly during the Obama administration, have shifted to a “cut and run” position. It is short-sighted and irresponsible to bring most U.S. troops home and cease offensive operations, even drone strikes, within Afghanistan. To leave a predominantly illiterate and sorely undertrained Afghan army (as a U.S. government report published at the end of January showed) to protect the people of Afghanistan is negligent.

It is nonsensical to remove our troops from Afghanistan in the wake of a growing Taliban insurgency, which will inevitably worsen once we have pulled out. Should we follow these ill-advised policies only to have to bomb or invade again the next time a terrorist attack against the U.S. is launched from Afghanistan, à la the 9/11 attacks? These are questions and considerations that the Obama administration seems to be glossing over, opting instead to base its policy on short-term concerns that do not take into account the future and the big picture.

The United States should feel honor-bound not to abandon the Afghan people, particularly Afghan women, to the likes of the Taliban — a backward, xenophobic lot bent on the subjugation of women and ethnic minorities and the support of terrorism and jihadism the world over.

The U.S.-led war in Afghanistan began in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States. The war was a necessary reaction to a clear and present danger to our homeland — a concept on which all agreed, including Congress, the Bush administration, and later the Obama administration. We set about routing the Taliban from this defunct and lawless swath of land and then building a nation where none existed. We have made great strides, but, as this latest terrorist attack proves, we are not done.

I recognize that the American people are tired of war. I am, too. We are all crushed, heartbroken, and deeply saddened when our soldiers come back broken in body and mind. But we made a commitment to see this venture through, to provide active and forceful stewardship to what we started. It is in our national interest and safety to protect Afghanistan and its people from the Taliban and, in so doing, to protect against a jihadist attack on our nation.

The U.S. is rapidly earning a reputation as a nation that abandons friends, causes, and projects when something newer and shinier appears, or when a task gets difficult or controversial. At times we even turn our backs on our friends when an enemy manipulates us.

Why are we forsaking an ally like Israel, the only outpost of democracy, Western values, and normalcy in the entire Middle East region? Why are we abandoning Azerbaijan, an ally that borders Iran and Russia and is our most steadfast and reliable partner in that region, the key to alleviating Europe’s energy dependency on Iran and Russia and one of the few moderate and progressive Muslim nations we can count as a friend? Lastly, why are we abandoning Afghanistan, a slowly emerging nation that without us will surely devolve into the Terrorist Republic of Afghanistan? Our commitment, at its very base, is to not abandon this nation that is very clearly not ready to stand on its own.

Is Alex’s death, along with those of so many others, emblematic of the new post-U.S. and post-NATO Afghanistan, a tragic exclamation point on our venture in Afghanistan? Do we leave Afghanistan to the likes of their “thug in chief,” Karzai, and then to the Taliban once he is gone — only to bomb them once our national security is threatened again?


Dispatches: January 2014
The men and women of the United States armed forces conduct combat and security operations across the globe every day. Here's a look at some current deployments. Pictured, sailors inspect the deck of USS Halsey prior to flight operations. (Photo: Mass Communication Specialist Third Class Johans Chavarro)
ARMY: A soldier with Company A, First Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, Second Armored Brigade Combat Team, Fourth Infantry Division, carries a pair of empty TOW missile tubes during a live-fire exercise at Camp Buehring in Kuwait. (Photo: Sergeant Marcus Fichtl)
Specialist Michael Washington, Company C, Second Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, looks out for suspicious activity at a key-leader engagement near Forward Operating Base Torkham in Afghanistan. (Photo: Sergeant First Class E. L. Craig)
Sergeant Sean McNamee, Company C, Second Special Troops Battalion, Second Armored Brigade Combat Team, Fourth Infantry Division, kneels to a tactical halt during the unit’s engineer qualification tables at Udairi Range Complex near Camp Buehring, Kuwait.
(Post: Sergeant Matt Waymire)
Soldiers with Delta Company, First Squadron, Eighth Cavalry Regiment, Second Brigade Combat Team, First Cavalry Division, conduct a presence patrol around the U.S. Consulate in Herat, Afghanistan. (Photo: Corporal Alex Flynn)
Soldiers with Delta Company, First Squadron, Eighth Cavalry Regiment, Second Brigade Combat Team, First Cavalry Division, conduct a presence patrol around the U.S. Consulate in Herat, Afghanistan. (Photo: Corporal Alex Flynn)
Soldiers with First Platoon, Alpha Battery, Fourth Battalion, 25th Field Artillery Regiment, Third Brigade Combat Team, Tenth Mountain Division, fire an M777 howitzer to calibrate at Forward Operating Base Lightning. (Photo: Regional Command-East)
Soldiers with Task Force Attack, 159th Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), conduct a hot refuel on an AH-64D Apache helicopter at Jalalabad Airfield. (Photo: Regional Command-East)
Soldiers with Fourth Battalion, 227th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, First Cavalry, load an AH-64 Apache with 2.75 inch rockets during a Forward Arming and Refueling Point exercise near Camp Buehring, Kuwait. (Photo: Specialist Harley Jelis)
An AH-64 Apache with Fourth Battalion, 227th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, First Cavalry, idles during a Forward Arming and Refueling Point exercise near Camp Buehring, Kuwait. (Photo: Specialist Harley Jelis)
Specialist Nickolas Evangelista-Reitner, 216th Mobile Augmentation Company, Army National Guard, provides overwatch for another team clearing the area next to Highway 1 in Afghanistan. (Photo: First Lieutenant Laura Beth Beebe)
Private First Class Christopher Greene, Troop O, Fourth Squadron, Combined Task Force Dragoon, occupies a security position during a partnership patrol with members of the Afghan Uniformed Police in Kandahar Province. (Photo: Sergeant Joshua Edwards)
A Special Forces Operation Detachment-Alpha soldier scans the area as Afghan National Army commandos conduct a clearance of Mandozai Village in Kandahar Province. (Photo: Staff Sergeant Bertha A. Flores)
Sergeant First Class Thomas Stebbin, 1438th Multi-Role Bridge Company, Missouri National Guard, works on a section of bridge damaged in an insurgent attack in Gereshk, Helmand Province. (Photo: Corporal George Huley)
Soldiers with the 159th Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), refuel a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter at Forward Operating Base Ghazni. (Photo: Specialist Joseph Green)
Soldiers with Bravo Company, First Battalion 32nd Infantry Regiment, Third Brigade Combat Team, Tenth Mountain Division, stand in formation during the company's change-of-command ceremony Jat Assistance Platform Sultan Khel in Wardak Province. (Photo: Captain John Landry)
NAVY: An F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron VFA-32 (the “Swordsmen”) is directed to the catapult on the flight deck of USS Harry S. Truman, underway in the Gulf of Oman. (Photo: Mass Communication Specialist Third Class Karl Anderson)
An MH-60R Seahawk helicopter with Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron HSM-74 (the “Swamp Foxes”) flies in front of the guided-missile cruiser USS San Jacinto. (Photo: French Navy Chief Petty Officer Bruno Gaudry)
Sailors assigned to USS Ramage maneuver a rigid-hull inflatable boat during a personnel transfer. (Photo: Mass Communication Specialist Second Class Amanda R. Gray)
Sailors with Task Group 56.7.4 transit the Arabian Gulf aboard a riverine command boat during a training exercise. (Photo: Mass Communication Specialist First Class Michelle L. Turner)
Sailors run to secure a UH-60 Black Hawk on the flight deck of USS Harpers Ferry during deck-landing qualifications while underway in the Arabian Gulf. (Photo: Mass Communication Specialist Third Class Mark El-Rayes)
The Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided-missile frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts conducts a towing exercise with the amphibious transport dock ship USS New York while underway in the Atlantic Ocean. (Photo: Mass Communication Specialist Second Class Cyrus Roson)
Logistics Specialist Third Class Noah Go signals the pilot of an MH-60R Seahawk with Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM-51 (the “Warlords”) from the flight deck of the guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell, underway in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. (Photo: Mass Communication Specialist Third Class Chris Cavagnaro)
Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) First Class Reynaldo Acuna directs an E-2C Hawkeye with Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron VAW-116 (the “Sun Kings”) on the flight deck of USS Carl Vinson, underway off Southern California. (Photo: Mass Communication Specialist Third Class Scott Fenaroli)
An MH-60S Knighthawk with Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 7 (the “Dusty Dogs”), receives cargo from the fast combat support ship USNS Arctic during a replenishment-at-sea maneuver with the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman. (Photo: Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Blagoj B. Petkovski)
A sailor on the flight deck of USS Elrod directs an SH-60F Sea Hawk helicopter with Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron HS-11 (the “Dragon Slayers”). (Photo: Mass Communication Specialist Second Class Tim D. Godbee)
Aboard USS Shiloh, Operation Specialist First Class Jonathan Hudson prepares to take tactical air control over a MH-60R Seahawk with Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron HSM-51 (the “Warlords”) while underway in the Indo-Asia Pacific region. (Photo: Fire Controlman Second Class Kristopher G. Horton)
Ensign Nathan Harding reads a bearing through a pelorus while standing as conning officer aboard USS New York. (Photo: Mass Communication Specialist Second Class Cyrus Roson)
Gunner's Mate Second Class Gregory Spaulding fires a MK-38 25-mm machine gun aboard USS Stout during a live-fire exercise with the French navy frigate FS Surcouf. (Photo: Mass Communication Specialist Second Class Amanda R. Gray)
A sailor waits in the well deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island as a landing craft air cushion approaches. (Photo: Mass Communication Specialist Second Class Lawrence Davis)
Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) Second Class Brittany E. Burks signals to an AV-8B Harrier pilot with Marine Attack Squadron VMA-211 (the “Wake Island Avengers”) on the flight deck of USS Makin Island, underway for sea trials. (Photo: Mass Communication Specialist Third Class Kory Alsberry)
Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) Second Class Antoine Damron directs an F/A-18E Super Hornet onto a catapult on the flight deck of USS Carl Vinson, underway off Southern California. (Photo: Mass Communication Specialist Second Class John Philip Wagner Jr.)
An F1 Rafale aircraft assigned to the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle prepares to launch from USS Harry S. Truman during carrier qualification integration. (Photo: Mass Communication Specialist Third Class Karl Anderson)
Lieutenant Olena Krawciw, a shooter aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, launches a T-45C Goshawk assigned to Training Air Wing 1 and 2 while underway in the Atlantic Ocean. (Photo: Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Matthew Young)
F/A-18C Hornets with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 312 (the “Checkerboards”) stand on the aircraft elevator of USS Harry S. Truman. (Photo: Mass Communication Specialist Third Class Karl Anderson)
Sailors direct an F/A-18 Super Hornet with Strike Fighter Attack Squadron VFA-106 (the “Gladiators”) onto the catapult on the flight deck of USS Theodore Roosevelt. (Photo: Mass Communication Specialist Third Class Brian Flood)
MARINES: Marines with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit stationed aboard USS Boxer climb aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Mason from a rigid-hull inflatable boat during a visit, board, search, and seizure exercise. (Photo: Mass Communication Specialist Second Class Rob Aylward)
Corporal Kyle Click, Kilo Company, Third Battalion, Seventh Marine Regiment, prepares to fire a 40MM non-lethal round during rules-of-engagement drills at Camp Leatherneck in Helmand Province. (Photo: Corporal James Mast)
Marines with Bravo and Charlie Company, First Battalion, Ninth Marine Regiment, conduct rocket range training outside of Camp Leatherneck in Helmand Province. (Photo: Sergeant Eric S. WIlterdink)
Corporal Jerome Christian, Weapons Company, First Battalion, Ninth Marine Regiment, provides security during a joint patrol with the Afghan Local Police outside Camp Dwyer in Helmand Province. (Photo: Sergeant Eric S. Wilterdink)
Lance Corporal Jeremiah Benson, India Company, Third Battalion, Seventh Marine Regiment, provides security with an M240B machine gun from an MRAP vehicle in the Now Zad District of Helmand Province. (Photo: Corporal Sean Searfus)
Marines with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit train for a joint-branch air assault exercise with UH-60 Black Hawks operated by the Army’s A Company, Third Battalion, 142nd Attack Helicopter Company, 42nd Combat Aviation Brigade, at Camp Buehring, Kuwait. (Photo: First Lieutenant Jean Marie Kratzer)
AIR FORCE: Senior Airman Oren Hemphill, 366th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, waits to marshal an F-15E Strike Eagle during Red Flag 14-1 training exercise at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, Nev. (Photo: Senior Airman Brett Clashman)
Senior Airman Douglas Prewitt, 621st Contingency Response Wing, marshals a C-17 Globemaster III during a field exercise at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La. (Photo: Technical Sergeant Matthew Smith)
A pararescueman with the 82nd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron jumps from a HC-130J Combat King near Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti. (Photo: Staff Sergeant Staci Miller)
Airmen of the 133rd Airlift Wing brave the “polar vortex” cold to prepare a C-130 for launch in St. Paul, Minn. (Photo: Technical Sergeant Lynette Olivares)
An F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot with the 55th Fighter Squadron (the “Fighters”) displays his squadron’s customary “Guns Up” gesture prior to a training flight at Nellis Air Force Base. (Photo: Airman First Class Joshua Kleinholz)
Airman First Class Ryan Kemp, 92nd Air Refueling Squadron, refuels an F-22 Raptor while aboard a KC-135 Stratotanker during Red Flag 14-1 exercises over the Nevada Test and Training Range. (Photo: Staff Sergeant Veronica Montes)
Major James Silva (left) and Lieutenant Colonel Steven Myers sit in the cockpit of a newly-upgraded B1-B Lancer at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas. (Photo: Staff Sgt. Richard Ebensberger)
Airmen load an MRAP vehicle onto a C-17 Globemaster III at Kandahar Airfield during retrograde operations for Operation Enduring Freedom, airlifting equipment out of Afghanistan. (Photo: Technical Sergeant Jason Robertson)
Updated: Feb. 03, 2014

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