If it's in the News, it's in our Polls. Public opinion polling since 2003.


Are We done in Afghanistan?

A Commentary by Lawrence Kudlow

In the aftermath of the killing of Osama bin Laden, I found myself agreeing with Charles Krauthammer that this was a global game-changer for American greatness. It was a gutsy and courageous decision by President Obama, brilliantly executed by the Navy SEALs and all the intelligence and support behind them.

As Krauthammer put it, after the tough slogs in Iraq and Afghanistan, this amounts to the restoration of unquestioned U.S. military dominance. America has not slipped, nor has our military reach and power.

But now I want to ask a more difficult question. With the killing of Osama, is the Afghan mission complete? The original post-9/11 goal was to kill bin Laden and wipe out al-Qaeda. Now that we’ve killed bin Laden and dismantled so much of al-Qaeda, do we really need to trudge through an even longer war in Afghanistan?

Al-Zawahiri is in Pakistan. Perhaps the SEALs can dismantle him. Al-Awlaki is in Yemen, and perhaps al-Qaeda can be dismantled there. But regarding the broader war in Afghanistan, I was taken by a quote from Congressman Peter King on National Review Online. He said, “The enemy is now more of a threat from within than it is from overseas.”

I am no military or foreign-policy expert. But I do know the cost of supporting a corrupt regime like Hamid Karzai’s in terms of blood and treasure. The cost is steep. I speak here as a hawk, not a dove.

In dollar terms, the cost of the Afghan war is roughly $450 billion today, and according to CBO projections it is scheduled to rise by perhaps another $500 billion.

Meanwhile, the Congressional Research Service reports that we have doubled our average troop strength in Afghanistan from 44,000 to 84,000 as part of the surge. Troop strength there is expected to average 102,000 in FY2011. A slight 4,000 troop decline is projected for FY2012, but the longer-term commitment continues to the end of 2014.

Thus far, nearly 1,600 U.S. troops have been killed in action in Afghanistan. To me this is the most tragic part. Of course, I wholeheartedly support our troops. But is this blood really necessary? Are the projected future costs really necessary?

Again, I ask myself: All this to support Karzai? Isn’t this the sort of nation-building that the late William F. Buckley Jr. opposed? Are American national-security interests really tied up in Afghanistan? Is now not the time to contemplate a much more rapid troop withdrawal from Afghanistan?

I am willing to concede that the U.S. needs to fight the expected Taliban spring surge. But after that, is it worth it to stay any longer? And does our mission really include wiping out the Taliban in Afghanistan, a seemingly impossible task?

Going forward, what exactly is our real mission in Afghanistan? That’s the basis of my concern. Are we as Americans and conservatives really convinced that the continued mission is worth the lost blood and treasure? Is now not the time to leave?

What exactly are we doing in Afghanistan? And how do we get out of it?

See More Commentary by Lawrence Kudlow.

See Other Political Commentary.

Views expressed in this column are those of the author, not those of Rasmussen Reports. Comments about this content should be directed to the author or syndicate. 

Rasmussen Reports is a media company specializing in the collection, publication and distribution of public opinion information.

We conduct public opinion polls on a variety of topics to inform our audience on events in the news and other topics of interest. To ensure editorial control and independence, we pay for the polls ourselves and generate revenue through the sale of subscriptions, sponsorships, and advertising. Nightly polling on politics, business and lifestyle topics provides the content to update the Rasmussen Reports web site many times each day. If it's in the news, it's in our polls. Additionally, the data drives a daily update newsletter and various media outlets across the country.

Some information, including the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll and commentaries are available for free to the general public. Subscriptions are available for $4.95 a month or 34.95 a year that provide subscribers with exclusive access to more than 20 stories per week on upcoming elections, consumer confidence, and issues that affect us all. For those who are really into the numbers, Platinum Members can review demographic crosstabs and a full history of our data.

To learn more about our methodology, click here.