Home Opinion Opinion: Ten years after invading Iraq, U.S. must withdraw

Opinion: Ten years after invading Iraq, U.S. must withdraw

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Tuesday marked 10 years since the United States invasion of Iraq, a war that lasted much longer than needed. Our concern with Iraq was fear that they possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was harboring and supporting Al Qaeda, but no evidence of either was ever found. Under the command of President George W. Bush, Saddam Hussein was captured in December 2003 and later executed by hanging, and yet we remained in Iraq for another eight years. President Barack Obama did not announce the official end of U.S. combat missions until August 2010, and the last U.S. troops didn’t leave Iraq until December 2011. I have one question: Why?

The Iraq War is the third longest war in U.S. history, preceded by Vietnam and the ongoing war in Afghanistan. American involvement was present in Iraq for over nine years before the last U.S. troops left. I’m not discrediting the war itself, the American causalities, or the efforts of our military, but why are we spending all of this time talking about the anniversary of a war that ended when the war in Afghanistan is still going on? Haven’t we spent enough time fighting wars in the Middle East? Haven’t we exhausted enough of our resources? We’re spending so much money on this ongoing war when our economy is already hurting.

The Soviet Union was involved in a nine-year war with Afghanistan that lasted from 1979 to 1989. Two years later, the USSR disintegrated due to a weakened government, economy, social structure and political structure. The losses of the Soviets during their war in Afghanistan were too great to recover from—both financially and by body count. Fifteen thousand Soviet soldiers had been killed in the decade-long war and billions of dollars had been spent each year to support troops in Afghanistan. Soviet leader Gorbachev was able to realize that the best solution was to get out.

The U.S. war in Afghanistan has become the longest war in U.S. history, and we are experiencing similar consequences in America as the Soviet Union faced over 20 years ago. If the U.S. military killed Osama bin Laden (the founder of Al-Qaeda), why are we still there? Despite advisement from former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Republicans in Congress, President Obama wants to pull all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014, but the withdrawal needs to happen now before these consequences become any worse. The U.S. government is spending $800,000 per troop still in Afghanistan.

The War in Afghanistan has already lasted for nearly 12 years. It began October 7, 2001 when the U.S. armed forces, along with our allies, launched Operation Enduring Freedom in response to the September 11th attacks. Like most of America, I remember where I was on September 11th, sitting outside in my fifth grade English class reading The Indian in the Cupboard. My school was just 30 miles south of Shanksville, Pennsylvania, close enough to hear and feel the impact of the Flight 93 crash.

At 10 years old, I didn’t understand how anything so tragic could happen; I didn’t know what terrorism was. But the war in Afghanistan has now lasted half of my lifetime. When the war began, I didn’t know anyone deployed, but now I’ve seen high school classmates and college friends’ husbands and boyfriends complete multiple tours in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

The war served a purpose after the September 11th attack, but its end is long overdue. Terrorism and terrorist attacks go much farther than Al Qaeda or the Taliban; it is a war that cannot be won. Complete withdrawal from the Middle East will start to allow our economy to heal. It is not possible to restructure the federal budget and make spending cuts with such a large amount of money being spent on this war. The best solution to this long, enduring war is to admit this and get out.

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