The ‘simplicity’ of Afghanistan

The White House is disputing reports today that President Obama has agreed to send more troops to Afghanistan.

His top commander in the field, General Stanley McChrystal, wants to send 40,000 more troops. Unlike the buildup in Iraq, however, the “surge” in Afghanistan would take almost a full year, rather than five months.

“I have gained confidence that there’s not an important question out there that has not been asked, and that we haven’t asked — that we haven’t answered to the best of our abilities,” President Obama said.

Presumably, that includes “why not just bring everybody home?”

But the answer has yet to reach Clifford Taylor of Two Harbors, Minn., whose son, Aaron, was killed in Afghanistan last month. He wrote to MPR’s Tim Nelson today:


“It’s been 4 weeks now since our son, Marine Ssgt Aaron Taylor died in Afghanistan. The nightmare begins again every morning when we wake up and realize it’s not a dream.

We went to Camp Pendleton for a memorial service for Aaron on Oct. 28th.

After the service, they took us out to lunch. The C.O. invited us to his house for dinner the following evening. Nice guy, nice family. He has a wife, 2 young daughters and a dog. I told stories about Aaron and all the good times we shared. The whole thing lasted precisely 2 hours and then we were outta there. ‘Thanks for coming. We’re so glad to have met you. Here’s some cookies and a bottle of water.’ All very precise. Of course, that’s how the Marine Corps is. Very rigid and precise. It was a nice 2 hours. I bragged about my son and they all listened intently.

But it seemed like it was something they’d done many times before. A young man’s life. Gone in the blink of an eye. A promising future of prosperity, a wife, children and lots of good times ahead. Gone. Poof. I can imagine them saying after we left, ‘Geez, nice family. What a shame. Ah well…’

Shortly after, we heard about the 16 more lives lost in Afghanistan because of the helicopters that went down and I thought of the ripple effect it would have on all the families involved. I never realized how many lives are effected by the loss of one single individual until my son was gone.

The other day, Senator Amy Klobuchar called to convey her condolences, and after a short chat about Aaron, she gave me the phone number of her “go to guy” in case we have any issues. I told her I have an issue right now.

She asked what it was and I said, ‘Get our guys out of there! Now! Please!

Before more families have to go through this Hell.’ She said, ‘I wish it were that simple.’

One young man’s life touched so many people. Every day we hear about dozens of civilians being killed by suicide bombers and our military personnel being killed by roadside bombs. Each victim touched so many lives.

Such a huge ripple effect. The solution seems pretty simple to me.”

(h/t: Tim Nelson)

  • JackU

    The timing on this is very interesting. Yesterday we heard the stories about November 9, 1989 when the Berlin Wall was “opened”. One of the reports I heard, Midday I think, discussed how the Soviets told the East Germans basically, “Don’t count on us”, specifically the Red Army, to help out.

    What was hurting the Soviet Union? They had just extracted themselves from 10 years in Afghanistan that spring. We know what the result was then. I think part of what is driving policy makers now is that they don’t want to be responsible for it happening again. I don’t know if it’s the right policy, but then I’m not in a position to know the details either.

  • John P.

    The goal in Afghanistan was supposed to be to remove the Taliban from power to prevent them from once again harboring Al Quieda.

    Well, now they are hanging out in the Afghanistan/Pakistan border region, and we do not seem able to effectively get to them. If we drive them out of there, don’t they just go to Somalia, or some other ineffective state?

    It seems to me we are hung up on the old model of nations fighting against one another with uniformed soldiers to defend or take territory. This is another thing entirely, and maybe going in with guns blazing is not the best way to fight. The strategy of using military might to defeat terrorists has failed. If it worked, we would have been home in a week.

    But, now we have walked in with guns blazing, we have a moral obligation to cleanup the mess. Maybe that will require more troops in the short run. I appreciate the fact that Obama is taking some time to re-think Afghanistan. I hope he makes a wise decision.

  • say no more

    @ John P and JackU,

    are either one of you willing to go to Afghanistan to fight?

  • matt

    Not sure if Say no more is setting a bar on who can comment on foreign policy but I will assume that since I served active duty during a time of combat that I have met the level. I will answer his question as my comment – No. I am not willing to go to Afghanistan. We are fighting a war but not moving any closer to achieving any significant foreign policy objectives. Our efforts are decimating resources that could be used to achieve legitimate foreign and domestic objectives. Each additional dollar, life, bullet, bean and band-aid used in this war is a waste.

    Clifford is exactly correct when he says it is simple. Bring the troops home, let us not waste anything more on what at the very best could be a hugely expensive minor gain.

  • say no more

    // Each additional dollar, life, bullet, bean and band-aid used in this war is a waste.

    Clifford is exactly correct when he says it is simple. Bring the troops home, let us not waste anything more on what at the very best could be a hugely expensive minor gain.

  • BJ

    @matt,

    Thanks for serving.

    And a way second placed thanks for calling out ‘say no more’.

  • say no more

    thanks to matt too,

    my point is that what i read from the article was a story about the loss of a son. no one can really understand the impact unless you have been there or if you have a close person serving

    Not to disregard anyone who served (and btw I did too) and I too am grateful for their service.

    say no more to war is my point