Opinion: We were winning when we left
By Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush
As former Presidents of the United States, we feel obligated to address President Donald Trump's sudden and reckless decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan after a mere seventeen years of combat operations. We are not sure how the war could have gone so wrong in just the two years he has been president, but rest assured that we were winning in Afghanistan when we left the White House.
In October 2001, the United States launched Operation Enduring Freedom, sending American Soldiers and Marines to drive the Taliban out of Afghanistan. By the time Trump was inaugurated as president, we had managed to retake all of Afghanistan's provinces from the Taliban, some as many as six times.
In January 2009, at the end of the Bush presidency, we had 30,000 Americans deployed to Afghanistan. Security had improved, shops were reopening, elections were being held, and the Afghan army was learning how to fight. In January 2017, at the end of the Obama presidency, we had 8,000 Americans deployed to Afghanistan. Security had improved, shops were reopening, elections were being held, and the Afghan army was learning how to fight.
It is hard to argue with this continuous record of success. Any decade now, the people and government of Afghanistan will stop relying on U.S. soldiers and U.S. aid money to defend their homes.
We are also alarmed at President Trump's comments about our allies, especially Pakistan. When President Trump said, Pakistan "doesn't do a damn thing for America," he neglected two decades of Pakistan sheltering and arming America's enemies. From Mullah Omar hiding out in Quetta in 2001 to Osama bin Laden in Abottabad in 2011, there has never been a better friend to America's enemies than Pakistan.
Why President Trump would only give a measly $200 million to Pakistan this year, why President Trump would want to negate the sacrifice of the 2,500 Americans who died in Afghanistan by not sending another 2,500 Americans to die there as well, is beyond our understanding.
He has also made no effort to consult the defense industry or the international heroin industry, both of which require our military presence in Afghanistan if they are to turn a profit.
We urge President Trump to reject his failed policy of withdrawing from Afghanistan and instead embrace our failed policy of remaining. After all, it's not like any of our kids will be going.
George W. Bush served as the 43rd President of the United Sates. In the eight years he was president, 641 Americans died in Afghanistan. Barack Obama served as the 44th President of the United Sates. In the eight years he was president, 1,747 Americans died in Afghanistan.