Afghanistan... After Osama Bin Laden

Fiscal restraint is essential during a time of domestic hardship. However, it will cost us much more in the long term if we leave Afghanistan simply because we have eliminated bin Laden, but before we have finished the job.
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The death of Osama Bin Laden is one of the most singular moments of our lives. The man, whose death we do not mourn, launched terrorist actions around the globe and ultimately precipitated the involvement of United States (U.S.) forces in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is where I was born, yet I have spent most of my life as a refugee because of external forces. My homeland has not known peace in more than 30 years, thanks to the Soviet invasion in 1979, the war of liberation against the Soviet occupation, the ensuing civil war, and the subsequent rise of the Taliban theocracy that supported bin Laden. Many of my fellow countrymen have also been forced to live elsewhere as refugees, but now is our moment to shine. The demise of bin Laden is simultaneously the dawn of a new era for Afghanistan. Consequently, we must seize this window of opportunity to build on progress made so far toward ridding the country of the Taliban and stabilizing it for a government that will be supported by the people. The U.S. sent troops into Afghanistan nearly 10 years ago because of bin Laden and Al Qaeda. Thousands have died and many more have been maimed. According to the Congressional Research Service, the estimated financial cost of the war in Afghanistan has been $444 billion to date. With such a high price tag, it hasn't taken long for a chorus to begin calling for U.S. troops to be withdrawn and money be spent elsewhere. Already there are hints that some members of Congress and other leaders think now is the time to begin negotiating with the Taliban to speed an end to the war in Afghanistan. Fiscal restraint is essential during a time of domestic hardship. However, it will cost us much more in the long term if we leave Afghanistan simply because we have eliminated bin Laden, but before we have finished the job of making Afghanistan a stable country, whose people will not permit their government to host future terrorists.Our commitment to a better and secure future transcends just one man. A failure to complete our mission in Afghanistan may easily result in a status quo ante where the Taliban again rules from Kabul. This would present an ideal breeding ground for al Qaeda to return, with the Western world even more reluctant to demonstrate its resolve. An essential element of our resolve lies in a trustworthy relationship with Pakistan. In fact, the U.S. originally committed troops into Afghanistan to defeat al Qaeda, destroy their safe haven and prevent a cascading radical Islamic revolution in nuclear-armed Pakistan. Unfortunately, events in the past week have highlighted the ambiguities in Pakistan's policy toward the Taliban and al Qaeda. The U.S. must maintain a strong presence to ensure stability in the region. However, there are signs that the U.S. and its allies have made "tangible progress" in the Afghanistan war. A new Pentagon report, the first assessment since the infusion of more than 30,000 American troops to the battlefield late last fall, indicates that there is now the needed momentum to transfer control of seven regions to Afghan forces this summer. We must remember the words of Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who said that "resolve is a force multiplier." The Afghan government, the Taliban, and Afghanistan's neighbors are all hedging their bets on the reliability of the American commitment to the country. So are political elites, villagers, and tribal leaders across the country. It is essential that the Obama Administration acknowledges and specifies the level of sacrifice that is still required to meet our strategic goals in Afghanistan. Once those goals are clearly articulated, the military and the private sector can strive towards a discernible conclusion which results in a responsible transition to a robust Afghan government in Kabul. Young Afghans are proud to be part of a new generation that can live free from the specter of the world's most infamous terrorist leader returning to their country and causing more instability and oppression. But, there is more work to be done. The US and NATO should not abandon Afghanistan now -- not when there is more hope than ever that Afghanistan is moving down the path toward becoming a stable, secure nation that will never again be a playground for someone like Osama bin Laden." Hamed Wardak is a former Rhodes Scholar and Georgetown alumni. Born in Afghanistan, he now devotes his time to largely philanthropic endeavors to raise awareness on the world's refugees. He does this through his clothing line Ludus, devoting profits from sales to the UNHCR. For more information visit

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