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Motion: It's time to pull the troops out of Afghanistan
By the most obvious metrics, Afghanistan is a mess. The Taliban have been making steady gains, now threatening close to 70% of the country. Islamic State and Al Qaeda are gaining influence. Terrorist violence shows little sign of abating. The Afghanistan government and security forces are incompetent, ineffective, and corrupt. In response to this situation, President Trump has declared a “fight and win” strategy for America’s longest war (16 years and counting). That strategy includes increasing the US troop level to 15,000 to Afghanistan, up from 11,000 six months ago. Unfortunately, more of the same is not going to help Afghanistan or serve US interests. It’s time to pull our troops out. Keeping US forces in Afghanistan does not "make America safe". The opposite is true. The presence of our troops in the Islamic world makes the US more hated than ever, facilitating the recruitment of jihadist terrorists and exacerbating security threats throughout the world. Plus, the Taliban are nationalists without global aspirations – they do not threaten their neighbors or the US. In fact, given the Taliban leadership’s animosity towards the Islamic State, a Taliban victory in Afghanistan would empower them to rid their country of a truly global threat. A US departure from Afghanistan would also energize other countries in the region, like Pakistan, Iran, India and Russia, to exert themselves to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a failed state. Those who support keeping US troops in Afghanistan point out that their presence is vital to the US goal of preventing the country from becoming a safe haven for terrorists with expansionist ambitions. Many military experts believe that only way to accomplish this goal is through a broad political reconciliation between the US-backed Afghan government and the Taliban. To this end, the US wants to pressure on the Taliban to stop fighting and come to the negotiating table. The Obama administration destroyed any hope of the Taliban putting down their arms when it announced a troop withdrawal timetable – the single worst mistake of the entire campaign and the main reason we have come to this impasse. The current troop buildup is to help Afghan security forces by increasing advisors for battalion-level personnel. As Secretary of State Rex Tillerson explains, “This entire effort is intended to put pressure on the Taliban, to have the Taliban understand you will not win a battlefield victory. We may not win one, but neither will you…So at some point, we have to come to the negotiating table and find a way to bring this to an end." Maintaining a relatively small US military presence in Afghanistan is an essential part of this sensible strategy. So what do you think? Should the US troops stay or should they go? If they go, will there be trouble? If they stay, will it be double? Join us at Join us at the next SFDebate to explore and debate these questions. Further reading:

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