We Are Not Exiting Afghanistan -- We Are Staying

Yesterday, the president announced that the U.S. signed a Strategic Partnership Agreement with Afghanistan, committing the United States to the country for a long time to come. The agreement addressed the transition to Afghan-led security forces by 2014. Human and monetary costs to the U.S. will continue to skyrocket.

According to a recent article in The Atlantic, the U.S. spends an estimated $14,000 per Afghan troop per year. The long-term costs to the U.S. to train the 352,000 Afghan security troops we are counting on to allow the withdrawal of U.S. troops will be over $4 billion per year; or more than $40 billion over the next 10 years. The Associated Press recently highlighted a report that raises significant questions regarding International Security Assistance Force claims that there have been Afghan-led military operations, an indicator of progress toward Afghan military self-sufficiency, a cornerstone of our strategy.

It is widely recognized that much of al Qaeda's leadership and presence in Afghanistan has been decimated. Since the death of Osama bin Laden exactly one year ago, we have lost 381 U.S. troops. The president stated that 'we must give Afghanistan the opportunity to stabilize.' The assertion that maintaining a long-term presence in the country is the best way to prevent future attacks on the U.S. belies the reality on the ground: that our mere presence is destabilizing. The events of the past few months alone -- the Koran burnings, coordinated attacks by the Taliban in Kabul, and the killing of Afghan civilians by a U.S. solider -- should be enough of an indication that more time in Afghanistan is not the answer.

America has been lulled to sleep by the mind-boggling elongation of a war seven thousand miles away. The plain fact is we are not exiting Afghanistan, despite the appearances that the White House is trying to create. We are staying. Have we learned nothing from 10 years of quagmire? It is time to bring our troops home safely and responsibly.