Fred Kagan: Withdrawal From Afghanistan Will be a Victory for al Qaeda

'Are we going to pursue the definition of insanity here? We know what happens when we abandon Afghanistan'

• January 29, 2014 3:36 pm


Fred Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute discussed his recent WSJ editorial Wednesday on Fox News. Kagan argued in his editorial an American withdrawal from Afghanistan will be a defeat for the United States and a victory for al Qaeda.

Afghanistan is al Qaeda's historical homeland and is a cornerstone for the group's morale, Kagan told host Jenna Lee. Additionally, Kagan said just as al Qaeda claims to have chased the Soviet Union out of the country, they are waiting to claim the same false victory over the United States.

Irrespective of whether an American withdrawal would be a tactical victory for the terrorist organization, the AEI scholar noted al Qaeda will trumpet any resulting instability as a success.

Kagan went on to argue the United States should maintain a residual presence in the country. Lee interjected Afghan President Hamid Karzai objects to a status of forces agreement and asked the former West Point professor how the United States should respond. Kagan replied instead of dealing directly with Karzai, President Obama should wait until after this spring's Afghan elections and negotiate with their new leader.

The AEI scholar concluded history maintains a clear record of the consequences of abandoning Afghanistan:

FRED KAGAN: Look we know what happened when the Soviets pulled out of Afghanistan, the United States declared victory and decided that we had no further interest even though the battle then raged between Islamist members of the jihad, of Mujahadeen and more moderate members of the Mujahadeen. We decided we had no dog in that fight. We did nothing. No one is talking about an invasion here. We didn't even support with any kind of assistance the people who were fighting against the groups that have now been killing our soldiers. We had an opportunity to remain engaged without putting boots on the ground then. Now it will require some boots on the ground but it's still not a massive deployment. And the question is, are we going to pursue the definition of insanity here? We know what happens when we abandon Afghanistan. The president has made an enormous amount of points about how we didn't pay enough attention to afghanistan after the invasion of Iraq and look what happened. Everything he says and that everything history tells us suggests that it is critical that we remain involved in a reasonable way, not with hundreds of thousands of troops which aren't necessary but a reasonable way we can sustain, in order to prevent reputation of mistakes of the past which led to the destruction of the World Trade Center, attack on the Pentagon and deaths of thousands of Americans on Americans soil.

JENNA LEE: Daily images of those days. Fred, real quick before I let you go. Reasonable deployment of troops. How many numbers, how many troops would you be talking about in a reasonable way?

KAGAN: Look if you were going to perform the mission, the limited mission the president is talking about it would require 30,000, maybe 25,000 troops which is less than we kept in Korea for 60 years. The president is talking about 10,000 troops. I think that's too low but I think that it's sustainable and something that a future president could look at again and see if it is actually adequate. Once you go to zero, you're out, you're done and not going back. You have every reason to suggest the situation will collapse, al Qaeda will regain sanctuary and Americans will be once again at risk.