This letter reflects the opinions of history sophomore Kelly Barr. Barr submitted a response Elias Atienza’s piece “End the War in Afghanistan.” Letters to the editor do not reflect the opinion or editorial coverage of Mustang News.

Mustang News opinion editor Elias Atienza wrote an article titled “End the War in Afghanistan.” I disagree with his characterization of the United States’ goal and believe it’s a bad idea to withdraw all troops from the country. We neither “continue to have the same goal of uniting every single inch, nook and cranny under the Kabul regime” nor did we ever. Neoconservatives do not “want to continue this war until Afghanistan magically falls into the hands of the national government.” They certainly do not “believe that unconditional surrender will come.”

The U.S. first entered Afghanistan because the Taliban regime harbored and refused to turn over al-Qaeda leaders following the 9/11 attacks. When former President Barack Obama deployed additional troops in 2009, his stated intention was to deny al-Qaeda safe haven and stabilize and strengthen the Afghan government to protect itself. This can hardly be characterized as “uniting every inch.” The reduction from 100,000 troops to 10,000 demonstrates the goal is merely to hold the line with minimal commitment to prevent the Taliban from retaking the country and providing haven to violent Islamic extremists. Nobody believes the Taliban will surrender after 17 years and a 90-percent troop reduction, but that was never the aim.

The Islamic State group’s rise in Iraq after the U.S.’ withdrawal and its subsequent spread throughout the Middle East is a good indication of what may come if we suddenly withdraw from Afghanistan. In 1989, the Soviet’s withdrawal from the country caused a civil war that the Taliban won. Even with American troops present, al-Qaeda has been resurgent in recent years, and it’s a direct threat to American security.

I appreciate the difficult situation in Afghanistan, but I don’t think withdrawal is the best solution. Thousands of civilians have died in combat-related incidents since the start of the war — most of them at the hands of the Taliban, who have always destroyed the lives and rights of women, homosexuals, and religious and political dissidents. Without American troops to contain the Taliban, the situation will quickly revert to the horrifying dystopia that existed before our intervention.

Nicholas Grossman of the University of Illinois also makes the point that unlike Vietnam, the troops in Afghanistan are all volunteers. Taxpayers are indeed supporting the war, but young men are not being pushed to their slaughter.

There is no straightforward or obvious solution to the war in Afghanistan. But I propose we maintain a small American force to hold the line. Additionally, instead of providing so much aid to the Afghan military, we provide it directly to the citizens impacted by the conflict. This might win us popular support over time and stop the people of Afghanistan from looking to tribal leaders and instead to a U.S.-backed, democratically elected national government. Even more basic than nation building, we should occupy the country for our own safety at least until violent extremism recedes in the Middle East. Whatever the solution, I agree with Atienza that our objective should be clear.

This article has been edited for grammar and clarity.

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