Has the war in Afghanistan been worth it?

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US Army Sgt. Carl Goss secures an area near a bridge construction site in Zabul province, Afghanistan, March 13, 2011. Goss, assigned to Provincial Reconstruction Team Zabul, 181st Infantry Regiment, also is a member of the Massachusetts Army National Guard. US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz

Article Highlights

  • In Afghanistan US has achieved much more than vengeance for the 9/11 attacks

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  • US has paid a terrible cost in Afghanistan but the value earned is priceless

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  • In Afghanistan US has protected against further attack, preserved representative govt, stabilized region

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Yes. On Sept. 11, 2001, Afghanistan was home to Osama bin Laden and his terrorist organization, Al Qaeda, the group responsible for the 9/11 attacks. Today, Bin Laden is dead and what’s left of the Al Qaeda leadership has fled to Pakistan and beyond. But the United States has achieved much more than vengeance for the 9/11 attacks. Afghanistan is no longer a base for terrorists. Instead, it serves as a base for the U.S., as it strives to suppress terrorism and Islamic extremism and stabilize a fragile Pakistan next door.

The U.S. and its allies have achieved a great deal in Afghanistan. The initial invasion quickly ousted the repressive Taliban regime, which had sheltered Al Qaeda. For all its faults and corruption, the current government of Afghanistan has proved durable and is on the verge of a peaceful transfer of power from President Hamid Karzai to an elected successor. That’s something that hasn’t happened in Afghanistan for decades. And, most important to Americans, the U.S. has succeeded in training the Afghan army so it will be able to defeat attempts by the Taliban to reclaim power. 

More than 2,300 Americans have been killed in Afghanistan since 2001, many more have been wounded, and billions of dollars have been spent. That is a terrible cost, but the value earned in return—protecting the U.S. from terrorist attacks, preserving representative government in Afghanistan, and protecting U.S. interests in a volatile region—is priceless.

This article appeared in The New York Times Upfront on March 31, 2014 alongside an opposing viewpoint from former congressman Ron Paul.

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