Fareed Zakaria criticized the Afghanistan war in unusually harsh terms on his CNN program Sunday, saying that â€œthe whole enterprise in Afghanistan feels disproportionate, a very expensive solution to what is turning out to be a small but real problem.â€
His comments followed CIA director Leon Panettaâ€™s admission last week that the number of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan may be down to just 50 to 100 members, or even fewer.
â€œIf Al Qaeda is down to 100 men there at the most,â€ Zakaria asked, â€œwhy are we fighting a major war?â€
Zakaria noted that the war is costing the U.S. a fortune in both blood and treasure. â€œLast month alone there were more than 100 NATO troops killed in Afghanistan.,â€ the CNN host said. â€œThatâ€™s more than one allied death for each living Al Qaeda member in the country in just one month.
â€œThe latest estimates are that the war in Afghanistan will cost more than $100 billion in 2010 alone. Thatâ€™s a billion dollars for every member of Al Qaeda thought to be living in Afghanistan in one year.â€
To critics who suggest that we need to continue fighting the war against the Taliban because they are allied with Al Qaeda, Zakaria countered that â€œthis would be like fighting Italy in World War II after Hitlerâ€™s regime had collapsed and Berlin was in flames just because Italy had been allied with Germany.â€
â€œWhy are we investing so much time, energy, and effort when Al Qaeda is so weak?â€ Zakaria concluded. â€œIs there a more cost-effective way to keep Al Qaeda on the ropes than fight a major land and air war in Afghanistan? I hope someone in Washington is thinking about this and not simply saying weâ€™re going to stay the course because, well, we must stay the course.â€