UT professors debate U.S. involvement in Afghanistan

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Dr. Eugene Gholz speaks at a debate about America's involvement in Afghanistan on Tuesday. 

Photo Credit: Rachel Zein | Daily Texan Staff

Paul Miller, associate director of the University’s Clements Center for History, Strategy and Statecraft, and Eugene Gholz, public affairs associate professor, presented opposing views on U.S. involvement in Afghanistan at an on-campus debate Tuesday.

In May, President Barack Obama announced the U.S. would end combat operations in Afghanistan in December but will continue to have a small presence in the country. The U.S. first became involved in the country in 2001, following the 9/11 attacks. 

At the debate held at Sid Richardson Hall, Miller advocated keeping troops in Afghanistan and emphasized four key points: the threat of al-Qaida, the danger al-Qaida presents to an unstable Pakistan, democracy and humanitarianism. 

“Al-Qaida is uniquely rooted in Pakistan and Afghanistan,” Miller said. “The possibility of civil war in Pakistan could lead to destabilization of this region and, ultimately, will affect the U.S.”

In response, Gholz said the U.S. should shift focus away from Afghanistan.

“It’s time to move to other concerns other than Afghanistan,” Gholz said.

His main argument centered on re-evaluating the national interest, understanding how Afghanistan now has primarily local concerns, and looking at other areas of the world that might require intervention.

“Afghanistan today is tangential to American national interest,” Gholz said.

After their opening remarks, each debater had a six-to-seven-minute rebuttal period, followed by a mediator addressing points made by the speakers and ending with questions from the audience. Plan II sophomore Ellen Pennington said she had a particular interest in learning more about Afghanistan.

“I hadn’t heard about our trajectory in Afghanistan,” Pennington said. “I’ve heard about current issues in that region in general, but I didn’t know exactly why we got involved.”

According to Miller, as students acquire further knowledge about past and present foreign issues, these lessons will change how foreign policy gets enacted.

“A deep knowledge of history should affect future policy making,” Miller said. “I hope [students] learn the right lessons from [Afghanistan].”