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YouSpeak: Time to Get Out of Afghanistan?

Operation Enduring Freedom 10 years later


It’s been 10 years since the United States invaded Afghanistan, making that war the longest in the nation’s history. Some progress has been made: Osama bin Laden has been killed, the Taliban has been weakened, a constitutional amendment has legalized equality for women, and Afghans have voted in their first parliamentary elections in 30 years.

But those gains were expensive. According to the Department of Defense, 1,693 American military personnel have been killed and 14,455 have been wounded. The Costs of War study, directed by Neta Crawford, a College of Arts & Sciences professor of political science, and Catherine Lutz, a Brown University professor of anthropology, estimates that Operation Enduring Freedom has cost the United States $443.5 billion. The study puts the number of Afghan civilians killed by violence to be somewhere between 12,500 and 14,700. And there have been significant human rights violations.

Today, nearly 100,000 American troops remain on the ground in Afghanistan. And while that number is expected to shrink by about 30,000 by next summer, Americans are deeply divided over the military commitment. A recent CBS News poll found that 58 percent of Americans felt the United States should not be there. Only 35 percent said continuing to fight was the right thing to do.

This week’s “YouSpeak” asks: “Should the United States pull out of Afghanistan?”

YouSpeak” typically appears each Monday.

If you have a suggestion for a question we should ask, post it in the comments section below.

Joe Chan

Joe Chan can be reached at joechan@bu.edu.

20 Comments on YouSpeak: Time to Get Out of Afghanistan?

  • John J. Deltuvia Jr. on 10.17.2011 at 7:57 am

    Is that even a question? Osama was taken from Pakistan, where intelligence placed him since 2004, despite that Pakistan was and continues to be the recipient of large amounts of foreign aid – or Danegeld – from the US. History shows the British Empire began cracking to pieces when it fought Afghanistan. History also shows the country once called the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics went bankrupt when it fought Afghanistan. Obviously, learning from history is something that our political leaders are extremely bad at achieving. Back in 2009, BU Today published an article from Associate Professor – or His Excellency the Ambassador of Pakistan to the United States – Husain Haqqani to the effect that the US needed to earn Pakistani trust ( http://www.bu.edu/today/2009/husain-haqqani-united-states-must-earn-pakistani-trust/ ); at the very same time his nation was harboring Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders! It should be obvious: the time has come to leave Afghanistan. The time has come to stop paying Danegeld to Pakistan, and to consider Pakistan an unfriendly nation. And the time has come to remove the Ambassador for that unfriendly nation, His Excellency Associate Professor Husain Haqqani, from the faculty of Boston University.

    • A proud Pakistani on 10.18.2011 at 8:20 pm

      Why am I not surprised at your incredibly selfish and narrow-minded way of thinking? America created the Taliban after the cold war, even invited the Taliban to the White House (there are pictures about this all over facebook if you ever opened your pretty little eyes to anything other than Fox News) and then left Afghanistan after the Cold War ended. Today, America is back in Afghanistan trying to handle the mess that it itself created. And Pakistan is there at the forefront, fighting a war that it was dragged into because America promised to “bomb it into the stone-age” otherwise. Pakistan has lost more lives than all the NATO forces combined. I hope you consider these facts the next time you decide to blabber your ignorance all over this forum.

      • John J. Deltuvia Jr. on 10.18.2011 at 10:11 pm

        If Pakistan believed that, knowing that there is a war that has gone on since the 1950’s between the US and North Korea – a war that is still going on, but as another “cold” war – then Pakistan’s leaders must either be rather ignorant, or else wanted to get into the war. Notice North Korea hasn’t been bombed into the Stone Age. Nor was Iran, when it invaded American soil by taking hostages in the United States embassy.

        Oh, and I don’t watch Faux News, except for hilarious excerpts people post to Facebook sometimes.

        I would agree that we both have selfish ways of thinking. As an American citizen, my concern is for the United States of America. As a Pakistani (you don’t mention if you are a citizen of Pakistan or simply of Pakistani descent), your concern is for Pakistan.

  • Rhett on 10.17.2011 at 9:29 am

    It was foolish to go into Afghanistan in the first place, but that’s what happens when you elect people who have never studied history. If the United States put a fraction of this amount of money into energy independence (both technologies and infrastructure) it’s amazing many of our foreign interests would suddenly become uninteresting.

    • John J. Deltuvia Jr. on 10.18.2011 at 10:04 pm


      I agree with you completely. If our economy did not depend on oil we would have no strategic interest whatsoever in that area of the world. Nor would radical groups be formed there who oppose the United States for funding their religious rivals by paying for oil – because we wouldn’t be funding them any more.

  • OnTheGroundConditions on 10.17.2011 at 10:22 am

    It really makes perfect sense that BU students, who for the most part have no practical military experience; are weighing in on a tactical decision that should be make by the generals on the ground. But then again I see kids in StuVi playing Modern Warfare II quite a lot, so they probably know what they are talking about in regards the Afghanistan.

    • PCD on 10.17.2011 at 2:20 pm

      Thank you for raising that point about Modern Warfare II. Based on Act II, Chapter three of the MWII it’s plain to see that although rapid military withdrawal has a negative short-term impact, over the long run, once troops and finances are diverted from a widespread military operations, the army can focus its energy and money into more important and sophisticated operations including but not limited to preventing ex-Soviet nationalists from acquiring nuclear weapons and attempting to fire them from stolen submarines left over from the breakup of the former USSR. It’s a good thing BU students are so astute militarily- God bless Xbox.

    • John J. Deltuvia Jr. on 10.18.2011 at 10:22 pm

      Whether or not to disengage fully from Afghanistan is a strategic, not a tactical, decision. It resides Constitutionally with the President of the United States of America, not with the “generals on the ground”. Possibly the history department offers a course on the US Constitution; you might consider taking it, if it does.

      Part of the reason for this strategic decision lying with the President is that the President must take *all* the duties and needs of the Nation into account when making strategic decisions relating to the military power.

      However, as to tactics, a general observation may be made by any reasonable person: the tactical decisions by the generals on the ground have resulted in a war that has taken twice as long as to defeat Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. This rather suggests that the tactical situation is untenable – or else the generals are totally incompetent, your choice.

  • Abram Trosky on 10.17.2011 at 10:49 am

    The comparison to the “great game” of imperial England and Russia is tired. Regardless of what one thinks of America’s imperial history, this is a different conflict in a different era, in which the goal is not territorial expansion or kill and capture. In counter-insurgency, the “hearts and minds” argument has to be sincere, lest one create the enemies of tomorrow (which will cost more). If you want to honor the soldiers that are fighting, stop huffing about bringing them home and focus instead on those who are there mending cultural fences and restoring (y)our reputation in the eyes of a people ravaged by decades of American sponsored war and extremism. As the naval veteran in the video indicates, we need to “fix what we broke.” Armchair foreign policy quarterbacks need to stop thinking like the cynical state makers they claim to be criticizing and ask themselves what the real implications of our sordid thirty-year history in the region are, and what duties are owed because of it.

    • Nathan on 10.17.2011 at 11:45 am

      @Abram – I agree with you that USA and USSR ‘broke’ Afghanistan long before the official US occupation 10 years ago. I don’t share your hope that US soldiers will mend cultural fences and restore national infrastructure to a level that wins “hearts and minds” of the Afghan people. Is the USA able and willing to “adopt” Afghanistan? What would be a model for the best possible result – Puerto Rico, Mexico, Israel, Somalia?

      Yes – American political and military decisions have hurt this country, but I don’t see the advantage of continued occupation. It would be great if another nation or consortium of nations were to commit to serious aid of Afghanistan – but they won’t while the USA is on the ground. Historically and geographically either Pakhistan or India would be better prepared to aid Afghanistan – if they were willing – if they could be trusted. I think USA needs to be smart enough to realize we CANT “fix what we broke” and try to broker a solution where someone else does the fixing.

  • NotFooledByTheMedia on 10.17.2011 at 11:40 am

    Not all the veterans at BU hold the same opinion as our esteemed colleague in the video.

  • Tom on 10.17.2011 at 4:51 pm

    In hindsight, it was probably a mistake to get involved in nation-building to begin with. Our recent successes against terrorist organizations have largely been the result of coordinated intelligence and targeted drone strikes. That doesn’t require a large occupying force on the ground. Besides, we know now that Pakistan has been a major benefactor of the Taliban, the Haqqani network, and Bin Laden himself. We can’t make any progress in Afghanistan until the Pakistanis stop undermining the global counter-terrorism effort.

  • TheFacts on 10.18.2011 at 1:57 am

    Just because Osama bin Laden was captured from Pakistan does not prove the nation’s complicity – it merely proves an intelligence oversight. Just like the inability to track 4 planes flying hundreds of miles off their trajectories to kick off this entire saga does not prove CIA or FBI complicity in those events. Pakistan has suffered more than any other nation in this war on terror – over 25,000 civilian deaths, thousands wounded and millions internally displaced refugees. That’s more deaths than all of Nato and US forces have suffered combined. The Pakistani economy has lost over $80bn over this period – a colossal amount for an emerging economy like Pakistan. US aid is but a fraction of the losses suffered by Pakistan economy each year – the majority of which is in any case reimbursement for services and supplies provided to Nato and US forces in Afghanistan by Pakistan’s army. So before you start pointing fingers based on your superficial knowledge gained from a very biased media – I suggest you get your facts right.

    • John J. Deltuvia Jr. on 10.18.2011 at 9:51 pm

      So why did they give the US permission to invade Afghanistan through their territory? If it results in a net loss to them, wasn’t that rather stupid of their government?

      And why didn’t the US trust Pakistan to capture Osama?

      How could Osama have been living in an area where many Pakistani generals retire to without such people, trained in military actions, not noticing some odd things about Osama’s residence?

      And why is the US still finding al-Qaeda members in Pakistan?

      So before you start pointing fingers based on presumed bias, I suggest you take a course in logic. Maybe two or three. I suggest you start with the “ad hominem” fallacy in argument.

  • Michael on 10.18.2011 at 6:59 pm

    Great YouSpeak question: “Can we ask a soldier to be the last to die in Afghanistan?”
    It would be nice if BU Today put forth questions from both sides of the spectrum. Can’t hurt to hear each side of the story, I’d be happy to write it up!

  • Someone who is there in Afghanistan on 10.18.2011 at 7:11 pm

    I find it interesting that people who have never been to Afghanistan are saying that it is time to ‘get out’. Why don’t you go there and see what the actual citizens of that nation are saying. They are pleading to NOT have forces leave due to the instability. But I guess playing XBox leads to all kinds of experts.

    I am there, on the ground working as a civilian and have been for almost 2 years. Yes the loss of military lives is a terrible loss, but we lose more people to car accidents than have been lost in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

    • John J. Deltuvia Jr. on 10.18.2011 at 10:00 pm

      I say it is time to get out based on the fact that my tax dollars are being spent to help people of other nations, when we cannot support our own social safety net in the United States of America. I’ve never been to Afghanistan; nor, given familiarity with Kipling’s poetry, would I want to be there.

      I do not advocate placing Afghanistan on a list like Cuba, where American civilians are barred. If American civilians wish to aid the citizens of Afghanistan, and if they wish to take up private contributions to support that effort, I have no objection.

      But it can be seen over just the last hundred years that the Afghanis, collectively, only cooperate against military invaders – even if many villages and residents would prefer to accept aid.

      I am someone who is here, in the United States of America, and I say that we as a nation cannot monetarily afford to be police and EMS to the world.

      • A proud Pakistani on 10.19.2011 at 6:47 pm

        Maybe America should have thought twice before going into Afghanistan on a wild-goose chase. Maybe it should have hesitated before claiming thousands of innocent Afghan lives in its highly convenient “collateral damage”. Maybe today you as the embodiment of the chest thumping American patriot should feel slightly embarrassed at the millions of lives America has destroyed, the cultures it has desecrated and the thousands of angry terrorists it has created in both Afganistan and Pakistan’s north-western front due to its sheer arrogance. Maybe it should consider the fact that the word sovereignty does not just apply to America and its NATO allies. Maybe next time you dish out your uninformed ranting about Afghanistan and Pakistan you’ll remember that the next time one of your country’s drones drops a bomb in Pakistan, there’s probably a kid playing down there somewhere who had nothing to do with 9-11 but who will probably end up dead or without an arm and a leg if he’s lucky. But no you’re right, you should definitely withdraw from Afghanistan because YOUR TAX DOLLARS ARE BEING SPENT. You went into this country, you destroyed it, you got your man and now you’ll leave when you’ve made it ten times more volatile than it was previously, And why do you do it?? Oh because your TAX DOLLARS ARE BEING SPENT.

      • Someone who is there in Afghanistan on 10.20.2011 at 2:18 pm

        If you took the time to actually read something – you would know that the people of Afghanistan are called “Afghan” while the currency of is called “Afghani”. I guess that is confusing to most people and shows the ignorance level.
        Yes, the US has spent tax dollars there, but so have other nations. I find it to be very self-centered that people who say “spend my tax dollars this way” are the ones who actually have so many tax deductions that they end up spending so little in federal taxes. I assume you are like every other person who thinks that their federal taxes are the problem when actually, you spend more in state and local taxes for things that you use on a daily basis. And your state and local taxes are deductible on your federal taxes. Therefore, your ‘tax dollar’ that you are sending is minimal compared to what you spend locally.

  • RABBI DR. BERNHARD ROSENBERG on 02.27.2012 at 3:57 pm

    The Russians finally left Afghanistan.
    It made sense for the US to go into Iraq because, at the time, there was hope that Arabs, if given the chance, would opt to do what all sensible people would: choose democracy. What we learned after almost ten years is that, for most Muslims, Islam trumps democracy. There is no point in trying to bring them into the Modern world, because they don’t want it. To do it would require more than just offering it to them (that didn’t work). We would have to enforce it just as the Allies deNazified Germany after WWII. I don’t think we’re willing to expend that kind of effort. Therefore, the only thing we can do is recognize they won’t change and expend our efforts on protecting ourselves from them.
    Leave them and Afghanistan and secure our borders against them.

    Even if we show defference to President OBAMA for the apology regarding the ACCIDENTAL buring of the KORAN, we need to get out of AFGHANISTAN NOW. How many more AMERICAN SOLDIERS MUST DIE. RABBI DR. BERNHARD ROSENBERG 732 572 2766 5 FAIRHILL RD. EDISON NJ 08817

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