Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph, – Haile Selassie
I served 26 months in Afghanistan as a USDA agricultural advisor from 2010-2012. I was a part of the historic Civilian Uplift that President Obama implemented at the same time as the military surge in 2010 and was part of a multi-discipline Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT). The strategy was to put civilians in the most kinetic areas of Afghanistan to win hearts and minds by creating economic growth and stability. In other words – create jobs. The desired effect was that the insurgents would be so grateful for these opportunities they would lay down their weapons, stop attacking us and say goodbye to their old terrorizing ways.
Since 2001 we have spent over 2 trillion dollars in Afghanistan and before that 2 trillion in Iraq. That works out to $15 million dollars a day. Right now taxpayers are paying $10.54 million dollars for the costs of war in Afghanistan and Iraq every hour. In Iraq we have spent over $60 billion for reconstruction projects. The U.S. Special Inspector General along with Iraqi leaders judged the program to be a miserable failure. Instead of evaluating the effectiveness of reconstruction efforts and developing a strategy that might actually work we went on into Afghanistan with the thought process of “this should work; we just need to pump more money into it”. The U.S. spent over $104 billion on reconstruction from 2002 to June 2013 for business, agriculture, and other development projects, according to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). SIGAR’s final report suggests a significant amount of money has been poured into questionable projects with little or no oversight, evaluation or follow-up. This lack of accountability by the American government led SIGAR to conclude that we threw billions of dollars into Afghanistan with no strategic planning about how to do it the right way and has had no lasting benefit.
And reconstruction efforts came with costs other than monetary. In Iraq 318 Americans (U.S. military, federal civilian employees, and U.S. civilian contractors) lost their lives in stabilization-related projects. At least 786 people were wounded while performing reconstruction or stabilization-related missions. It is estimated that a whopping 25 percent of civilians deployed to war zones suffer from PTSD, 18 percent met the criteria for depression and 50 percent alcohol abuse. In fact, a report showed that more civilians contracted by the U.S. were killed in war zones between January and June of 2010 than American soldiers – 250 civilians versus 235 service members. The cost in blood and treasure has been enormous and what do we have to show for it? We have ISIS and the resurgence of the Taliban to show for it.
I went to Afghanistan with the desire to help people in a country ravaged by 40 years of war. I naively thought that by trying to help the agricultural sector to become sustainable I would improve lives. Then I saw children being brought to the Forward Operating Base I was on with broken arms and legs to get medical attention from the French clinic there. The Taliban had pulled them from their homes and broken their limbs telling their parents that if they continued to cooperate with the Americans the next time they would kill them. I recall meeting a young boy, maybe five years old with his broken arm tied up in a red bandana sling. His huge brown eyes were looking at me in fear because I was an American. I still have nightmares about those eyes.
We meant well. Our hearts were in the right place, but all the money we spent, all the lives lost did not create the type of enduring jobs that the State Department talking points tout. It didn’t work in Iraq, it didn’t work in Afghanistan and it won’t work in the future. We are on the government learning curve, which is a circle and the result is that we never learn.
The only way to defeat the spread of ISIS and the many Phoenix like resurrections is to kill as many as we can as quickly as we can. Put all that money we spend trying to develop economic stability in war zones into annihilating these beyond evil, subhuman Islamic jihadists. Then let the countries themselves develop their own jobs. We cannot buy loyalty by throwing massive amounts of taxpayer’s dollars into other countries. It doesn’t work. It didn’t then. It won’t now. Terrorists don’t want jobs, they only want to terrorize.