On Sept. 18, 2001, President George W. Bush signed an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) that gave approval to begin the war in Afghanistan. The language was simple: The president was authorized to use force against all those who planned or aided the 9/11 attacks and terrorists who might be plotting future attacks or those who harbor them.
After nearly two decades, thousands of lives lost, and al-Qaida brought to ruin, there is no longer any rationale to remain in Afghanistan. The country is on the threshold of a peace agreement between the Afghan government and the Taliban to secure the country. Because the Taliban will likely require the removal of U.S. troops in any deal they sign, our core national security interests as expressed in the 2001 AUMF will now rest on us leaving — not staying.
The question is not whether we have to wrap up the war in Afghanistan; it’s a question of how rapidly we can do it.
Even with a peace agreement, will Afghanistan be in great shape? Hardly. The rights of many, including women, will be fragile. Corruption will continue to be an ongoing issue. But these are diplomatic issues, not matters for the U.S. military to solve. Those who preach waiting for a perfect situation are just preaching “Forever War.”
We’ve heard all the arguments for “just waiting a little longer” until “conditions on the ground” are met before. For years, neoconservatives and even Democrats, like former Sen. Joe Lieberman, gave arguments as to why we could not end the war in Iraq, the same that we hear today about Afghanistan. If it were up to them, Operation Iraqi Freedom would have never ended.
Endless war was not viable then, and it is not viable today. It is time to leave Afghanistan. Now.
Retired Army Major Gen. Paul D. Eaton is a senior adviser to VoteVets.org.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Two decades after 9/11: America no longer needs to stay in Afghanistan