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General Katrina vanden Heuvel: How I’d Fix Afghanistan

From her Washington Post column:

The continued occupation of a fiercely independent and tribal Afghanistan — as well as the death of tens of thousands of civilians — engenders anti-Americanism and fuels terrorist recruitment. Military operations have also pushed violent jihadists across the border and further destabilized a nuclear-armed Pakistan — a far greater threat to our national security than any tenuous al-Qaeda “safe haven” in Afghanistan.

Finally, focusing so many resources on Afghanistan — where al-Qaeda is now minimally present — diverts vital resources from other urgent security needs, including economic recovery at home. For the first time, the monthly cost of the war in Afghanistan exceeds what we spend in Iraq — $6.7 billion per month, compared with $5.5 billion in Iraq. At the end of May, appropriations for both wars will reach over $1 trillion — mostly borrowed money that we’re not investing at home. Upcoming congressional hearings on veterans care will demonstrate the human costs. No wonder a majority of Americans — 52 percent — believe the war “is not worth its costs,” according to a recent Washington Post poll.

A long-overdue alternative strategy begins with a responsible withdrawal of U.S. troops and support for a regional diplomatic solution, including talks with the Taliban, which Afghan President Hamid Karzai wants to pursue and America should support unconditionally. It also includes common-sense counterterrorism measures, intelligence sharing and targeted development and reconstruction assistance.

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