President Trump, Honor 9/11 By Getting the US Out of Afghanistan | Opinion

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New York City Police Champlain Khalid Laitif stands at the edge of the North Pool during memorial observances on the 13th anniversary of the 911 attacks at the site of the World Trade Center in New York Robert Sabo/POOL/Reuters

This Wednesday marks the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on America. Members of the al-Qaeda terrorist group brought down the Twin Towers in New York City, left the Pentagon in flames and partial ruin in D.C., and crashed a final aircraft in the fields of Pennsylvania, brought down—by true heroes—short of their intended target, likely the White House. In all, 2,996 people were killed (not including the 19 hijackers) and over 6,000 were injured, making it the largest single instance of casualties on American soil in history.

Where are we as a nation 18 years after this horrific act of terror?

We are in Afghanistan, of course. The war in Afghanistan started on October 7, 2001 and has claimed the lives of 2,372 American service people, the most recent of whom, Sgt. 1st Class Elis Angel Barreto Ortiz, was killed just this past Thursday by Taliban terrorists.

U.S. soldiers remain deployed without meaningfully outlined goals and no clear U.S. interests at stake. It is as if they have been sentenced to 18 years of dangerous community service, cleaning up areas along the side of a highway littered with IEDs while protecting Afghan citizens against the Taliban.

I mean all of this with the utmost respect for our armed service men and women, appreciating their tireless commitment to our country and their loyalty to our nation. As it's said, theirs is "not to reason why; theirs but to do and die."

But the American people must ask why.

President Donald Trump made news over the weekend when he publicly announced he had cancelled a secret meeting with Taliban leaders to take place at Camp David this past Sunday, three days before the 9/11 anniversary. The president said the meeting was to be an attempt to negotiate a truce in Afghanistan. He stated that he cancelled it because of the Thursday terror attack executed by the Taliban to gain leverage in ongoing negotiations.

Predictably, the president was criticized in 360-degree fashion, as he is for everything he does. Conservatives self-righteously proclaimed they didn't want the Taliban on U.S. soil under any circumstances, while liberals tried to once again portray him as erratic. CNN is attempting to link the aborted summit to the president's "obsession" with Alabama. The responses are expected, canned and, as always, riddled with anti-Trump bias.

Allow me to state something clearly: President Trump is doing the right thing in trying to get us out of Afghanistan once and for all. In fact, I will go a step further. Mr. President, it is OK with me, and tens of millions of other Americans who support you, if you simply pull us out of Afghanistan by the end of the year—of course with the direct threat to the Taliban that if they dare engage in or support activity against America they will feel the force of our military all over again.

The Taliban were not the primary force behind the 9/11 attacks. It's true that they provided safe haven to al-Qaeda alongside Iran, allowing them to train their forces on Afghan soil. But there is reason to believe that the relationship between the two groups was more like that of an unruly tenant with a fed-up landlord. In other words, the Taliban had no great love for al-Qaeda and they do not have international ambitions outside of Afghanistan. It is also true that they are an objectively evil governing body that is oppressive to its own citizens and embraces radical theocracy. The Taliban's fateful decision, along with that of Iran, to harbor the future 9/11 terrorists was an unforgivable sin against the United States. But to consider only that fact paints a woefully myopic and incomplete picture of the origins behind 9/11 and who is ultimately to blame.

Consider for a moment that it was the Saudi royals who financed the attack, according to documents obtained by the New York Times, and that 15 out of 19 of the hijackers were from Saudi Arabia. To this day the Saudis have not been held to account for their involvement, and last time I checked, we still sell them weapons and consider them a critical ally in the region. Senator Rand Paul has been one of the only consistent voices in the Senate who has called for a recalibration of our Middle East policy. He has advocated putting a stop to foreign occupations, ending the selling of arms to countries that support or fund terror, and rethinking our far-too-often reckless offensive military strategy.

Our military presence, now with 14,000 active duty members deployed, looks more like a foreign police force than a military seeking to achieve "victory." Our brave men and women from Topeka to Tallahassee are stuck in an endless patrol of an ancient land, geographically isolated and topographically immune from ever being tamed or subdued, especially by an outside occupying force. It is certainly the case that some innocent Afghan lives are being protected. American soldiers have always done that and will continue to do that wherever they are deployed. But protecting Afghan lives is the job of an Afghan army, not ours.

According to estimates, the U.S. has spent $3.6 trillion on war in the Middle East between 2001 and 2016, an astounding and unacceptable number considering we are $22 trillion in debt, have a crumbling infrastructure, failing public schools, and massive local and state debts. Like many other Americans, I find myself asking, "What the heck did we get for $3.6 trillion spent and 2,372 American deaths in Afghanistan and 4,488 causalities in Iraq?"

From most senators, "experts," policy wonks, pundits and authors, I have yet to hear any good response to that question.

This Wednesday, we will honor with remembrance ceremonies and moments of silence the victims of 9/11, including the first responders who lost their lives as the Twin Towers fell. We will also give tribute to the men and women of our military who have paid the ultimate price as a result. Prayers will be said, songs will be sung and names will be read. These are noble actions and they come from the heart of each and every American. It is right to honor those who have fallen.

Mr. President, this year, might I suggest that we use the memory of 9/11 to honor those who have not yet fallen, and with your bold action will never have to? Please continue your efforts to get the United States out of Afghanistan. Your citizens want it and your soldiers' lives demand it. It is not a sign of U.S. weakness to leave. It is a sign of U.S. courage.

Charlie Kirk is the founder and executive director of Turning Point USA, the nation's largest and fastest growing conservative youth organization with a presence on over 1,400 college and high school campuses; he is also host of "The Charlie Kirk Show."

The opinions expressed in this essay are the author's own.

President Trump, Honor 9/11 By Getting the US Out of Afghanistan | Opinion | Opinion