We haven't learned our lesson in Afghanistan
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Two trillion; 20,000 wounded and over 2,000 American lives lost. Perhaps Donald Trump said it best in 2012, “It is time to get out of Afghanistan. We are building roads and schools for people that hate us. It is not in our national interests.”

Every generation of Americans has stood witness to war. Our grandparents witnessed World War II, for our parents it was the Vietnam and Korean wars. For our generation, it has been the war in Afghanistan — the longest war in our nation’s history.

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A child born at the start of the war is now just two years from being eligible to serve. While the initial declaration of war after 9/11 was a direct mission, 16 years later we must ask ourselves if we have a foreign policy strategy in the Middle East?

 

The toughest decision a president can make is when to send our young service men and women into war. Before making a decision, Americans deserve an open and honest debate, congressional authorization, and a grand strategy that explains how this war will further secure American national interest. Last night, President TrumpDonald John TrumpArizona GOP Senate candidate defends bus tour with far-right activist Alyssa Milano protests Kavanaugh in 'Handmaid's Tale' costume Bomb in deadly Yemen school bus attack was manufactured by US firm: report MORE failed to address any of these crucial issues.  

In laying out his strategy for the war in Afghanistan, Trump emphasized the great sacrifice of our active military and their families. He acknowledged the failures of nation-building abroad and criticized the previous administration’s diplomatic efforts. While we applaud him for paying lip service to the negative consequences and costs of nation-building, we fear that Trump is going down the path of both Bush and Obama in the Middle East.

Trump provided no specifics on troop numbers, deployment or withdraw times and failed to define our national security interests in Afghanistan. While Trump claims the Afghan government will continue to bear the heavier burden and assist with the economic cost of the war, U.S. taxpayer dollars are still spending $52 billion a year on operations alone in this foreign intervention.

Trump also spent a great deal of time discussing Pakistan’s role in protecting and funding terrorist groups abroad. Trump made many threats against Pakistan in his speech and foreshadowed the potential for the U.S. to spiral into a war with their government. As opposed to threatening war, the U.S. should cut off any and all foreign aid to the country of Pakistan –– with less resources, they will be of less service to the terrorists groups.

President Trump successfully campaigned on a realist foreign policy. His supporters voted for him because they believed he would decrease U.S. intervention in the Middle East and focus on "America First."

Both President Trump and Defense Secretary Mattis have admitted that we are not winning the war in Afghanistan. So how then is tripling down on the same failed policies going to yield different results? More than 16 years and three presidents later, nearly 9,000 American troops are still in Afghanistan, and ​Trump’s solution is more of the same.

This is now Trump’s war.

Under his administration, we will see more American lives being sent in the path of danger with the mission of stabilizing a Middle Eastern territory that has been fighting its own civil war since the beginning of time.

Rep. Ron Paul was right in 2011 when he educated Rudy Giuliani during the GOP primary debate. Paul wisely explained the CIA’s definition of blowback and the United States’ understanding of what it means to spread democracy by bombing other countries. It simply does not work. Even President Trump admitted this with his tweet that same year stating “Ron Paul is right when he says we are wasting lives and money in Iraq and Afghanistan.” What changed?

While the initial mission made sense in 2001, we must ask ourselves if further, seemingly endless commitment is needed. Trump must explain our interests in Afghanistan, the strategy, and clearly define what victory in Afghanistan would look like. This is not the "America First" policy that his supporters voted for — and he has some explaining to do. It is up to us to hold him accountable.

Young Americans for Liberty supports a sober foreign policy. American’s must oppose any war that is unconstitutional, does not serve America’s national security interests, and puts the lives of young men and women on the line. Trump’s Afghanistan plan is simply a rebranding of the foreign policy of both major parties. The tactics, timing, and restructuring of troops is not the debate our country needs. It’s time for us to rethink our entire foreign policy and whether we can continue to police the world while our infrastructure is crumbling and we’re approaching $20 trillion in debt. It’s time to support the troops. It’s time to bring them home.

Cliff Maloney Jr. is the President of Young Americans for Liberty (YAL), a non-profit, youth organization based in Arlington, Va. that boasts over 900 college chapters across the United States. YAL’s mission is to identify, educate, train, and mobilize youth activists committed to winning on principle.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.