Do you know Scott Dickinson? Richard Rivera? How about Greg Buckley? Matt Manoukian? Heard of Ryan Jeschke? Sky Mote? Ever run across Greg Trent? What about Tom Kennedy? Did you meet Kevin Griffin? Bump into Walt Gray? How about Ethan Martin, Clayton Beauchamp, or Dan Linnabary?
Most likely you haven’t. I sure haven’t met any of them. But they have something in common, the sad fate of dying in combat in Afghanistan last week.
When I see the names in the paper each Sunday of the men and women who’ve died over there, the question I think many of us have increasingly comes to my mind: Why are we still there?
For 10 years now, we’ve fought the good fight in that country, ridding it — briefly — of the Taliban who allowed Al Qaeda to use the country as its base of operations. Our attack on the Taliban was clearly justified.
But then, after that initial victory, we took our eye off of Afghanistan to focus on, in hindsight, the dubious invasion and occupation of Iraq. In doing so, we drew down our forces in Afghanistan and allowed the Taliban to regain a kind of foothold.
And we’ve tried to nation build in a country that’s been resistant to that for years.
So what do we have for those 10 years?
Well, Al Qaeda isn’t clearly the threat it once was, but it’s branched out to other areas, still dangerous. And Afghanistan?
Today, it’s a country full of corruption at all levels of government. It’s a country with a questionable army and an even more questionable police force. It’s a country whose people have often turned their guns on American soldiers, killing them in ambush after ambush. It’s a country that’s received the largesse of our government, but calls us the “occupiers” and wants us out.
We should oblige that desire.
At what point is enough, enough?
I know President Obama has a timetable of 2014 to end our presence (or at least the sizable presence we have now). But why wait another year and a half?
Do we really believe much will change in the next 18 months, that the Afghan people will somehow warm to us, that we will finally defeat the Taliban, that the Afghan government will suddenly become less corrupt?
It’s time to bring our troops home. Now. No more American blood shed in that country.
We have alternatives, the heroic Special Forces who can plot the destruction of Al Qaeda cells without troop presence in Afghanistan. We have the Predator Drone that can kill Al Qaeda members from afar. At this point, why risk more American lives?
Ten years ago, we hailed the bravery of our troops’ victory in Afghanistan. Those troops remain courageous today. But victory — if victory means a democratic country free of the Taliban’s destructive ways — may never happen.
We’ve done enough. It’s time to come home.
• Mike McClellan is a Gilbert resident and former English teacher at Dobson High School in Mesa.