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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

It's time to pull out of Afghanistan


 At the conclusion of the decade-long manhunt for the world's most notorious terrorist, U.S. military forces are receiving well-deserved credit for a mission accomplished. The elimination of Osama bin Laden was made possible by a strong intelligence operation and well-trained special forces units under the Joint Special Operations Command.
In the global war on terror, the combination of actionable intelligence and highly mobile special forces has proven most effective against an enemy that is not limited to a single geographic location.
Amid the worldwide celebration of bin Laden's death, we must recognize that the nature of this war does not require the placement of 100,000 troops in one country. It was not the 100,000 troops that took out bin Laden. We can bring many of those troops home and still effectively fight terrorism around the world.
Notwithstanding the unparalleled performance of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, the demands of a global war on terror cannot be met by concentrating resources in this one region indefinitely. The president has yet to articulate a definition of success in Afghanistan. Our forces on the ground remain the best in the world, having decimated al Qaeda and diminished its influence even before the death of bin Laden.
However, our current quest to create a strong central government in Afghanistan could take generations, with no guarantee of success. Limited rules of engagement in Afghanistan have unnecessarily endangered our own troops, causing us to incur higher casualty rates in Afghanistan than we ever experienced in Iraq. Our resources must be preserved for use in situations where actionable intelligence suggests a clear and present danger. Neither Afghanistan nor Libya currently pose such a threat.
By all accounts, the current government in Afghanistan is struggling. Our mission is an uphill battle in a country where the notion of a strong central government runs counter to established culture and practice. With systemic illiteracy, insufficient infrastructure, limited judiciary functions and significant law enforcement challenges, the basic fundamentals of the rule of law do not yet exist in Afghanistan.
While we expend massive resources shoring up a questionable government, the real war on terror continues to be a global problem that extends beyond the borders of Afghanistan.
As our national debt grows, the borrowing and importing from our enemies continues, and the drug-related violence on our borders increases, we must evaluate the best use of our resources. The time has come to admit that the relatively minor threat posed by Afghanistan no longer justifies 100,000-plus troops on the ground.
Sunday's events in Pakistan only underscore the need for an emphasis on intelligence gathering and highly mobile special forces units. We can no longer fight this war by the old rules. This battle requires a nimble and agile force with a capacity for rapid response anywhere in the world. It requires integration and cooperation between intelligence-gathering entities. The CIA, NSA, National Geospatial Intelligence Agency and the Joint Special Operations Command's new Targeting and Analysis Center were all instrumental in finding and tracking Osama bin Laden. Such operations can transform the way intelligence is gathered, analyzed and acted upon.
After fighting the longest war in the history of the United States, it's time to redeploy our resources to address our most pressing threats. It's time to bring the formal war in Afghanistan to an end as we adapt to the changing demands of a different kind of war.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jason Chaffetz.

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