The commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps is warning Washington that there “will be no peace dividend” from withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, and he's cautioning against a hasty retreat from the country the marines have secured in time for this weekend's presidential election.
“We can’t afford to simply pack up and go home,” said Gen. James F. Amos.
President Obama ordered the Pentagon to fully withdraw U.S. troops by the end of the year after outgoing President Hamid Karzai blocked a deal to keep a small U.S. force there. This week's presidential election could change that, should a pro-troop candidate emerge.
Amos, boss of the marines for over three years, spoke late Tuesday as part of the Atlantic Council's Commanders Series.
He described a military squeezed by a shrinking budget and the public's desire to “furl the flag.” But, Amos said, quitting Afghanistan won't result in any major savings.
“My sense is that there will be no peace dividend following the conclusion of combat operations in Afghanistan later this year. In fact, given our current fiscal realities,” said Amos, “we will not do less with less, as some would believe. We will do the same with less, all done in a world that remains very dangerous.”
His comments challenging Obama's withdrawal plan were the second from a top commander calling for a continued U.S. presence in the war-torn nation. Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, commander of the international military coalition, recently said at a Senate hearing that leaving would open the door for al Qaeda to return.
“Withdrawing means abandoning the Afghan people,” Dunford said, “and providing al Qaeda the space to resume operations.”
In his opening remarks, Amos suggested that the resumption of terrorist activities in Iraq after U.S. forces withdrew are a warning sign.
“As for our continued military involvement, I believe we need to be very circumspect and take a lesson from our experiences in Iraq. We spent our nation's blood and treasure there, and then we pulled out. It's yet to be seen how Iraq will turn out. We may be able to avoid the same uncertainty in Afghanistan as we move forward. In fact, I would argue that when viewing Afghanistan-Pakistan as a whole, we can't afford to simply pack up and go home. We must remember what brought us there in Afghanistan in 2001. We went there to Afghanistan to keep Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for al Qaeda and international terrorism,” he said.
He also advised staying engaged throughout the world because it does wonders for U.S. diplomacy and helps to secure trust from other nations. “You can’t surge trust,” he said.Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.