It’s time to cut our losses in Afghanistan

The decision facing President Joe Biden in Afghanistan is complicated and difficult, but the stakes are clear. He can dramatically reduce the cost to the United States in lives and money by withdrawing U.S. troops by May 1 in accordance with an agreement reached last year with the Taliban. Or he could renege on that deal, which will assuredly lead to a resumption of violence, an open-ended American commitment to stay in Afghanistan costing tens of billions of dollars and many more American lives.

Most Americans do not want to see the country retreat into isolation, but they do want Washington to get its priorities straight. Mr. Biden can start by bringing U.S. troops home.

America’s nearly 20-year war in Afghanistan has cost the U.S. taxpayer roughly $1 trillion in direct expenditures, hundreds of billions of dollars in additional interest on the debt incurred to fund the war effort, and likely an additional $1 trillion in costs to care for veterans of the war for the next several decades. Costs have come down over the last year as troop levels have dropped and attacks on U.S. soldiers paused. But those reductions were due to the agreement reached with the Taliban that U.S. and NATO troops would leave by May 1. If we blow past that deadline, troop numbers, casualties and costs are certain to go back up.

Do we really need to expend so much more blood and treasure in Afghanistan when Americans feel knee-capped from a pandemic that’s taken more than 500,000 lives and countless livelihoods? The most vulnerable populations face an inefficient vaccination process in the world’s only superpower. Chicago’s most violent neighborhoods are plagued by chronic underinvestment, New York is not sure how long it can keep its subway running, California faced the worst wildfire season in recent history, and middle America battles an exodus of jobs and an influx of drugs. Rather than tackle problems at home, an aloof Washington continues to look abroad. Remaining in Afghanistan is the epitome of this toxic habit.

Read the full article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.