June 23, 2011
By Mackenzie Eaglen
Politics matters in war. It's why the Army Chief of Staff after Vietnam tried to institute a doctrine where the nation only makes large or prolonged military commitments using all forces, including those in the National Guard and Reserves.
But the politically expedient path to draw down U.S. forces in Afghanistan more quickly than military commanders suggest -- and at increased risk to a very small share of our population -- could lead to unintended consequences. It could also lead to prolonged operations that would've otherwise been unnecessary, or jeopardize success made over the past year.
The rapid draw-down broadcasts a stronger American commitment to withdrawal than long-term stability of Afghanistan. Our urgent pullout is likely to bolster Al Qaeda and Taliban morale, weaken our allies' resolve, discourage Pakistan from cracking down on Taliban leaders in its country, and spook local Afghans who've been our partners.
The U.S. mission in Afghanistan is directly linked to our vital national interests of keeping the homeland safe from attack. It is not a luxury.
The assumption that Afghan draw-down savings could then be applied, dollar for dollar, to domestic spending is a false choice. Until a few years ago, combat operations in Afghanistan were debt financed.
Once the mission going forward -- still unclear -- transitions more over time to counterterrorism operations, they still won't be cost free. Additionally, the cost of redeploying forces is much more than the cost of keeping them in theater.
America's ground forces are exhausted, their equipment old and depleted. The Army and Marine Corps in particular now need to reinvest in their people, in tracked and wheeled vehicles, and in helicopters -- after being employed at wartime-usage rates for a decade and in harsh conditions.
Any cost "savings" from our Afghan drawdown will not materialize for several years after combat has ended -- if we're honest about the accounting and make the reset of the Army and Marine Corps a real priority.
Mackenzie Eaglen is a research fellow in foreign policy studies at The Heritage Foundation.
First appeared in The New York Times
Protect America Initiative of the Leadership for America Campaign
Research Fellow for National Security Studies, Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies
Read More >>
Heritage's daily Morning Bell e-mail keeps you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.
The subscription is free and delivers you the latest conservative policy perspectives on the news each weekday--straight from Heritage experts.
The Morning Bell is your daily wake-up call offering a fresh, conservative analysis of the news.
More than 200,000 Americans rely on Heritage's Morning Bell to stay up to date on the policy battles that affect them.
Rush Limbaugh says "The Heritage Foundation's Morning Bell is just terrific!"
Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) says it's "a great way to start the day for any conservative who wants to get America back on track."
Sign up to start your free subscription today!
The Heritage Foundation is the nation’s most broadly supported public policy research institute, with hundreds of thousands of individual, foundation and corporate donors. Heritage, founded in February 1973, has a staff of 275 and an annual expense budget of $82.4 million.
Our mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense. Read More
© 2013, The Heritage Foundation Conservative policy research since 1973