The U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Austin S. Miller, announced recently that the drawdown of U.S. troops from Afghanistan will be delayed to ensure troops do not have the COVID-19 virus before transitioning. That makes sense. This global pandemic, however, has helped expose something that doesn’t make sense: America’s forever-wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria continue to bleed financial resources that would do much more good being spent at home.

For the sake of the service members themselves and the civilian population back in America, a slight delay in withdrawal to comply with health needs is a prudent, temporary step. But it is crucial to ensure that a two-week delay doesn’t halt the withdrawal.

Though I have long argued the war in Afghanistan needs to end based on sheer military and geopolitical merits, the current situation with COVID-19 helps highlight the imbalance in how the U.S. spends its precious resources. This is crucial to point out: America’s military missions in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria benefit the governments in Kabul, Baghdad, and Kurdish fighters in Syria–the missions do not serve, in any way, the interests of the American people. As we fight the coronavirus at home, now more than ever that imbalance is exposed as unsustainable.

It is likely the economic disruptions caused by the coronavirus will mount in the coming months. The debt–already at a staggering $23.5 trillion–is threatening to stifle our economic growth as the debt payments eat progressively larger percentages of our federal budget. Washington must reassess its priorities so it can rebuild our country and weather this storm without harming our long-term financial health by loading us up with unsustainable debt.

America’s limited resources have been expended for abstract goals in distant lands for too long. The focus of our efforts now must be on core U.S. security and prosperity interests. This has been true for well over a decade but the current crisis with the coronavirus is highlighting how urgent it is to modify our policies going forward–and not just in Afghanistan.

Until we remove our troops, the Taliban and government sides will never make the hard tradeoffs necessary to end the war. Meanwhile, we must admit the security of our homeland is not dependent on having troops on the ground in Afghanistan—it is dependent on our powerful ability to project power globally and destroy all direct threats to American regardless of where they originate.

The situation is even more out of balance in Iraq, Syria, and Africa. We presently have approximately 6,000 troops deployed on the continent of Africa, 5,000 troops deployed in Iraq, and a few hundred in Syria. American security is not at risk in any of those countries and is not improved at all by our combat operations in those locations. While Washington gives our troops the ignoble mission of dodging rocket attacks, America finds itself in a dire situation in which we could use the vast economic resources being spent on needless military adventurism.

Concurrently, there is an increasing consideration of employing the military within the United States to provide unique capabilities as various states struggle to handle the enormous strain. Already governors in 22 states have activated portions of the National Guard to help with the coronavirus crisis. These calls will likely grow in the coming weeks and months.

Like it or not, we have to make hard choices and establish national priorities in how we use our resources during this critical time. Spending billions per month on multiple wars abroad that do nothing for our security–and using our military for the benefit of foreign governments–is dangerous, not helpful, and should stop immediately.

Daniel L. Davis is a Senior Fellow for Defense Priorities and a former Lt. Col. in the U.S. Army who retired in 2015 after 21 years, including four combat deployments. Follow him @DanielLDavis1.

More In Opinion
A red line in Central America
In order for China to achieve its goal of global hegemony, it must increase the cost to the United States of countering China.
In Other News
Load More