An assembly of Afghan leaders voted Sunday to accept an agreement that would keep up to 15,000 American troops in the country for another decade.
However, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has ignored entreaties from the assembly and United States leaders to sign the agreement into law saying he will leave the decision to a presidential successor not to be chosen until April.
Many Americans, including local residents, say they are skeptical that another decade in Afghanistan is worth America’s time and manpower.
“Either we have a job to do there or we don’t. If we don’t have a defined mission there then there is no reason for us to continue being there,” said Marietta resident Jim McBride, 62.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization officially handed over security control of the entire country to Afghan forces in June and almost all foreign troops were expected to withdraw by the end of 2014.
However, the current agreement would leave a residual force of up to 15,000 American troops in Afghanistan for the purpose of training and conducting counter-terrorism measures.
However, Karzai’s unwillingness to sign the agreement could be the death of it.
As Marietta resident and Army veteran Doryl Weinstock pointed out, there is no guarantee the yet-undetermined presidential successor would favor the agreement.
“Who’s to say what’s going to change if there’s a change in government?” asked Weinstock, the current commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5108.
Weinstock can see both the positive and negative attributes of staying in Afghanistan:
“We’ve been there long enough, but what’s going to happen to the people when we leave? We’re training them, but how long is it going to take? ” he worried.
Public support for what is already the longest war in United States history has been drastically waning.
According to an ongoing poll by the Washington Post and ABC News, 56 percent of Americans thought the war was worth fighting when asked in February 2007. During the most recent poll in July, only 28 percent thought the same.
Marietta resident Joe Nowell, 78, is among those whose support for the war has dissipated.
“I think it was a noble gesture originally,” he said.
However, Afghanistan has proved itself incapable of coming to a peaceful resolution, he said.
“Sad as it is, let’s bring them home,” he said.
Like Nowell, Marietta resident Terry Gerken, 46, wants to see an end to the American military presence in the country.
“I think we’ve got issues to take care of in this country,” he said.
Marine Corps veteran and Marietta resident Bernie Cleveland, 63, said the Afghan conflict appears to be just another failed job in a long line of botched foreign military presence.
“We’ve already screwed up Iraq, Libya, and Egypt so I say get them out of there. Get our people out of harm’s way,” he said.
Some in the military draw parallels between the drawn out Afghanistan conflict and Vietnam, which previously held the title of longest U.S. participation in major wars.
Two years and three months ago, the Afghanistan conflict officially surpassed the nine years and 10 months of American involvement in Vietnam.
Vietnam veteran and Devola resident Eugene Strahler said he thinks that like Vietnam, Afghanistan will return to a period of unrest and fighting after the exodus of U.S. troops.
“I think it’s more or less going to be like Vietnam. After we left, it went right back to the way it was before. Vietnam was a total waste of 50-some-thousand guys and Afghanistan is the same,” he said.
When the United States entered Afghanistan following the terrorist attacks on 9/11, the country was predominantly controlled by the Taliban government.
Marietta resident Debbie Clatterbuck, 51, noted that there is also a financial component to keeping troops in Afghanistan.
“I think we’ve given them enough and it’s time to come home,” she said.
According to The Associated Press, the agreement could also mean more than $8 billion in annual funds for Afghanistan’s security forces and development assistance.
However, financial support would likely continue regardless of U.S. troop presence, said Army veteran Norbert Schilling, 69, of Marietta.
“Giving them aid is better than giving up lives,” he said.
To date there have been 2,287 American casualties as a result of the Afghanistan conflict.