Re­spon­si­ble with­drawal will make us safer

USA TODAY US Edition - - NEWS | OPINION - Ro Khanna

The Afghanistan peace frame­work is an im­por­tant step in end­ing Amer­ica’s long­est war. This war is now fought by some who weren’t alive on 9/11, and it has cost more than the Marshall Plan and over 2,000 U.S. troops.

Amer­i­cans want the war to end. Our orig­i­nal, jus­ti­fied ob­jec­tive of de­feat­ing al-Qaeda evolved into fight­ing the Tal­iban and de­moc­ra­tiz­ing Afghanistan. Amer­ica should al­ways stand for hu­man rights and free­dom, but not through end­less mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion.

Our strat­egy goes be­yond coun­tert­er­ror­ism and is un­winnable. The Tal­iban know their land and threaten 70 per­cent of Afghanistan — more than be­fore the 2009 “surge” or at any point since 9/11. Our troops shouldn’t be mired in tak­ing land for the Afghan mil­i­tary, pro­vid­ing force pro­tec­tion and fight­ing a per­ma­nent in­sur­gency. If any­thing, pro­longed over­seas mil­i­tary pres­ence breeds rad­i­cal­iza­tion. Re­spon­si­bly with­draw­ing makes us safer.

But what if the Tal­iban steam­roll the Afghan gov­ern­ment and then har­bor ter­ror­ists? Pre­vent­ing that out­come doesn’t re­quire a per­ma­nent U.S. troop pres­ence. De­ter­rence works. The Tal­iban should un­der­stand that the United States will use over­whelm­ing force again if they har­bor ter­ror­ists who di­rectly threaten our home­land. More­over, other “un­governed ter­ri­to­ries” ex­ist where ter­ror­ists can op­er­ate. There, we con­duct coun­tert­er­ror­ism from the air with­out troop de­ploy­ment.

We should con­tinue sup­port­ing the Afghan gov­ern­ment fi­nan­cially and diplo­mat­i­cally af­ter leav­ing and in­clude them in the peace process. The Afghans must even­tu­ally earn do­mes­tic le­git­i­macy them­selves, though.

China has avoided this “grave­yard of em­pires,” hasn’t fought in 40 years, and in­stead in­vests do­mes­ti­cally. When de­ter­min­ing how we pay for in­vest­ments such as $80 bil­lion for uni­ver­sal broad­band, let’s re­mem­ber we will spend $90 bil­lion in Afghanistan over the next two years. The big­gest threat to democ­racy isn’t the Tal­iban; it’s stay­ing eco­nom­i­cally com­pet­i­tive with au­thor­i­tar­ian su­per­pow­ers like China.

Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., serves on the House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee.

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