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12 Feb, 2020 00:11

THOUSANDS killed in ‘reconstruction’ mission show it’s high time for US to get out of Afghanistan

THOUSANDS killed in ‘reconstruction’ mission show it’s high time for US to get out of Afghanistan

A recent report shows over 2,000 people were killed outside of combat during the US “reconstruction” of Afghanistan. Yet President Donald Trump campaigns on ending that and other endless US wars, without actually doing so.

By a conservative estimate from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), 2,214 people were killed and 2,921 wounded in the course of “reconstruction or stabilization” mission, between its beginning in April 2002 and the end of 2018. Another 1,182 people were “kidnapped or missing.” 

This is on top of casualties in actual combat with the Taliban and other militant groups, resupply missions, or attacks on Afghan government and military forces, or in places unrelated to “reconstruction” activities. 

Dated February 5, the SIGAR report was made public on Tuesday, when the special inspector John Sopko testified before a Senate committee on the “lessons learned” from the long war. News about Afghanistan was relegated to the (metaphorical) back pages, however, as the media attention was on New Hampshire primaries or the latest episode in #Resistance lawfare against Trump. 

During last week’s State of the Union address, Trump arranged a surprise for the wife and children of Army Sergeant First Class Townsend Williams, bringing him home from Afghanistan and reuniting the tearful family on national television. 

SFC Javier J. Gutierrez and SFC Antonio R. Rodriguez, both 28, never got that chance. They were gunned down on Saturday, when an Afghan soldier they were training opened fire on American troops. Their deaths bring the US death toll in Afghanistan to six since the start of 2020. Another 20 of their colleagues were killed in combat, along with two more non-combat deaths, in 2019. 

How many more US soldiers, allies and Afghans have to die before that long-since-pointless war finally ends?

Also on rt.com ‘Mendacity & lies’: After 19 years America admits to itself that it NEVER could have won war in Afghanistan

On Monday, Trump cut short his campaign rally in New Hampshire to attend the ceremony at Dover Air Force Base, as the bodies of Rodriguez and Gutierrez were brought home. It is not the first time he has attended such a ceremony. Why is it not the last?

After all, Trump keeps saying that writing letters to the families of those killed is the hardest thing he has to do as president, and he is literally campaigning on pulling US troops out of “endless wars.”

If any war deserves that descriptor, Afghanistan's it. The US first sent troops there on October 7, 2001 – less than a month after hijacked airplanes struck the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The administration of George W. Bush blamed Osama bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda for the attacks, and the Taliban government of Afghanistan for sheltering them. The Taliban had been defeated by December that year and Al-Qaeda sent on the run, only for Bush to change the mission from revenge to “reconstruction,” an open-ended recipe for staying in the country forever. 

Bin Laden was found in Pakistan and killed in 2011, but US troops and their NATO allies kept fighting the losing fight against the resurgent Taliban. Trump promised a withdrawal during the 2016 election campaign, only to publicly cave to pressure from the Washington establishment in August 2017 and escalate the war effort.

Also on rt.com ‘We’ll always have a presence’: Trump says 8,600 US troops will stay in Afghanistan

One of the many ironies of the failed attempt to impeach Trump is that his critics tried to make a case that US foreign policy is determined by “interagency consensus” – meaning, the unelected permanent bureaucracy in Washington – rather than the president.

Thing is, the US Constitution clearly says otherwise. Trump is the commander in chief. He sets US foreign policy. With a literal stroke of a pen, he can do for every American service member currently neck-deep in the Afghan quagmire what he did for Sergeant Williams and bring them home. How many more flag-wrapped coffins will arrive at Dover before he stops delaying the inevitable?

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.