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Trump last night said we would no longer be nation-building but killing terrorists in Afghanistan going forward. Oddly, several years ago I heard from a general departing to lead Americans in Afghanistan that we were failures at nation-building there, but good at killing.

Sorry folks. America has been trying to nation-build in Afghanistan for 16 years, and in Iraq (how did that go?) and in Vietnam before that (we know how that ended.) It has been about nation-building all along, and that has failed time after time. Despite what Trump said last night, it is still about nation-building in Afghanistan and Pakistan today.

Are we good at killing? Yes. Are we wasting another generation of young American troops in another fruitless war? Yes.  Are we protecting the American way of life in the process? No. Are we wasting more billions, even trillions, that could be used to rebuild our own nation? Yes.

Are we learning anything? Yes. Are we doing anything useful with that learning? Absolutely not. Thanks Trump. The one time where one of your bad ideas — getting out of Afghanistan — might have been positive, you failed us again last night.

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Our decade in Afghanistan has not proven that America can “nation build,” but rather what the limitations of our cultural influence can be, even when backed with trillions of dollars, hundreds of thousands of troops and workers, and more than a thousand deaths. Now is not the time for us or Karzai to sign an agreement for the continuation of US troop presence in that country. It is time to leave, stop sacrificing lives for culture changes that are not forthcoming. We can continue economic aid. We can continue with some sort of “peace corps” presence. We can continue with some kind of military agreement, but not one that engages thousands of troops on Afghan soil. Let’s admit to ourselves, and to those who have loyally served in support of Afghanistan, that our ambitions there have been substantially inappropriate to the cultural realities, and while our intent has been good, our limitations are tangible. Let’s leave with some grace, wish them well, and refocus our efforts and resources, economic and human, on our domestic issues.

KABUL, Afghanistan –The White House threatened to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan next year, after President Hamid Karzai refused to sign a new bilateral security agreement.

The two countries remain deadlocked over future military involvement after an unsuccessful working dinner between Ambassador Susan Rice and Karzai at his palace in Kabul on Monday night.

In a statement, the White House said Karzai had outlined new conditions for a deal “and indicated he is not prepared to sign the BSA promptly.”

S. Sabawoon / EPA

Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaks to the Loya Jirga on Sunday.

“Ambassador Rice reiterated that, without a prompt signature, the U.S. would have no choice but to initiate planning for a post-2014 future in which there would be no U.S. or NATO troop presence in Afghanistan,” the statement said.

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The dinner meeting came at the end of Rice’s three-day trip to Afghanistan to visit American troops and civilians and to assess conditions in the country.

On Sunday, a grand council of Afghan tribal leaders – the Loya Jirga – voted to accept the BSA, but Karzai has since indicated he may not sign it until Afghanistan has elected a new president in March.

The White House statement added: “Ambassador Rice conveyed the overwhelming and moving support she found among all the Afghans with whom she met for an enduring U.S.-Afghan partnership and for the prompt signing of the BSA.

“In closing, Rice highlighted the American people’s friendship and support for the people of Afghanistan as embodied in the extraordinary sacrifices of our service-men and women and the unprecedented investment Americans have made in Afghanistan.”

In Afghanistan, there are still 47,000 American forces. The U.S. has been in discussions with Afghan officials about keeping a small residual force of about 8,000 troops there after it winds down operations next year.

U.S. officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, have said the BSA must be signed by year-end to begin preparations for a post-2014 presence.

Karzai spokesman Aimal Faizi said the Afghan leader laid out several conditions for his signature to the deal in the meeting, including a U.S. pledge to immediately halt all military raids on, or searches of, Afghan homes.

The agreement includes a provision allowing raids in exceptional circumstances – when an American life is directly under threat – but it would not take effect until 2015.

“It is vitally important that there is no more killing of Afghan civilians by U.S. forces and Afghans want to see this practically,” Faizi said, according to Reuters.

Karzai also called on Washington to send remaining Afghan detainees at the U.S. military detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, back to Afghanistan, saying that the Loya Jirga had endorsed the pact with this condition.

Alastair Jamieson reported from London. Reuters contributed to this report.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/23/us/politics/the-selling-of-a-politician-and-the-ads-almost-broadcast.html?_r=1http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/23/us/politics/the-selling-of-a-politician-and-the-ads-almost-broadcast.html?_r=1&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20120323

The lesson is perhaps that populism doesn’t always make good politics, however tempting it is to the thought-leaders. Of course, to some the real issue is why after 200+ years of the increasing power of populism — call it democracy — we still elect our Presidents through an arcane, unbalanced, non-democratic system that makes political advertising calculations, and vote counts, so corrupted — the obsolete and dangerous Electoral College!

Is this country more likely to have a 21st century version of a French revolution, than ever really reform our government? Isn’t it amazing that “nation-building” is still an American foreign policy, and not a domestic one?
Cheers, nonetheless…
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