The 38 deaths in Saturday’s helicopter crash in Afghanistan include 31 Americans, making this the deadliest day for U.S. forces since the war began. The tragic loss of American lives might be worth the sacrifice if it was making America safer, or if our presence was significantly improving the well-being of the Afghan people. But neither of these is true.
Our presence in Afghanistan is not making us safer because Afghanistan is not a threat to us. This was clearly acknowledged by a senior Obama administration official in a background briefing to reporters on June 21.“United States hasn't seen a terrorist threat from Afghanistan, for the past seven or eight years,” he said. He noted that Al Qaeda had moved on to Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.
Meanwhile, thanks to President Obama’s surge, over 100,000 U.S. troops are bogged down chasing an indigenous Afghan ragtag army, the Taliban, which has no interest in attacking anyone inside the United States. The only reason they are attacking U.S. soldiers is that U.S. soldiers are occupying their country.
The truth is that the presence of foreign forces gives the Taliban its raison d’etre. Every time NATO forces kill Afghan citizens, the Taliban benefits. And that happens all the time. In fact, the very day the helicopter was shot down, August 2, NATO troops attacked a house in southern Helmand province and “inadvertently killed eight members of a family, including women and children.” You can bet that the some of their relatives will soon be placing IEDs along the road to blow up U.S. tanks.
The Taliban have learned to downplay their unpopular fundamentalist ideology and take advantage of this popular discontent. Look at the case of In Wardak province, where the helicopter crashed. The Taliban had disappeared for several years, fleeing to Pakistan from 2002-2005. But capitalizing on the local anger about civilian casualties caused by NATO forces and anger at corrupt politicians, the Taliban returned and rebuilt, maintaining a stronghold in a province that borders Kabul.