President Biden made absolutely the correct decision to dump Afghanistan. There were no good options. We had to get out and chaos was imminent the moment we left. It is significantly better to get the loss we are bound to suffer behind us now than continue the agony of delay. Nothing would be gained by remaining, with much more to be lost.
American involvement in Afghanistan was hopeless. The military occupation of Afghanistan was a mistake from the beginning. It was an outgrowth of President Bush declaring a “war” on a common crime. Prior to 9/11 all terrorist activities were prosecuted in civilian criminal courts. After 9/11, with Bush’s “War Powers Act” enacted in response to the attack, terrorists could also be tried in military courts. Since 9/11 civilian criminal courts have continued to try individuals of terrorist activities and have convicted more than 660. Military tribunals have convicted eight, two of which were overturned on appeal. Guantanamo was created and continues to exist as a military, diplomatic and constitutional cancer, ignored by the powers of every administration to inherit it, and with no end in sight.
Afghanistan attracted the attention of Bush’s forces because it was thought to be the hangout of Osama Bin Laden and the location of Al Qaeda training facilities. The initial military objective was to find Bin Laden and to destroy the Al Qaeda training facilities. What we should have done is treat the situation as the remnants of an ordinary crime, gone into the country with targeted military maneuvers to get in, destroy Al Qaede resources, and get out.
Instead, we instituted a major military operation under the War Powers Act. We did clean up the training facilities, but Bin Laden slipped away. Once in country with a major military force, we appeared to sweep out the Taliban. The U.S. established military bases near all major cities in the country and settled down to assist in reforming the government.
It is not clear when the mission changed from pursuing Al Qaeda to assisting the Afghan government remain in power, but it did change – to national activity the U.S has proved itself to be notoriously inept at accomplishing. Whether we acted militarily or diplomatically, history is strewn with our failures in the area bringing about productive, positive change in the government of any country that has not invited our participation.
Initially in this case, we were taught that the Taliban were allies of Al Qaeda, beset with the same international goals, and therefore justifiably declared enemies of the West. We now know this to be wrong. The Talban are an intensely nationalistic sect of radical Islam, with no international aims of any kind. It is a brutal regime, to be sure, but it did not and does not share any of the international aims of Al Qaeda. The Taliban had no bone to pick with us outside of our involvement and interference with their country.
Compare our initial impression of VIET Nam’s Ho Chi Min, whom, we were told, was an international communist and an ally of Red China. As it turned out, nothing could be farther from the truth. Uncle Ho had no interest in international communism and was intensely distrustful of his Chinese neighbor; his only interest was in the people of Viet Nam and fin seeing reunification of the country. We were led down exactly the same path with respect to the Taliban in Afghanistan as was fed to us about Ho Chi Min in Viet Nam.
It took years to convince the leaders of our country – through three administrations and into a fourth – that strange as it may appear, most Afghans prefer the Taliban to anything the West was proposing in the way of leadership for their country. Despite how brutal the Taliban were to their own people, we continued to lose ground in the country. We were making no progress in reorganizing the government or finding competent leaders to take over. Corruption was rampant, incompetence everywhere, and the government in place was ineffective. There were, and are, no realistic prospects of positive change.
Exactly the same result was occurring in Afghanistan to our efforts to reform the country as happened to us in our efforts to establish a viable government in Viet Nam. A return to the brutal government of the Taliban was expected by everyone – the only issues were how long it would take once we were out of their way. For us to remain longer would only postpone the inevitable, it would not have resulted in any difference in the result. The disaster that resulted was completely predictable to anyone with even a smattering of knowledge of history.
Certainly, Biden should pursue rescue missions to bring out those most in danger of any Taliban take over. But this is a new mission, centered on U.S. and humanitarian interests, and is not in any wat connected to the existing Afghan regime. It’s a new mission, not a continuation of the old and the distinction is significant. Perhaps the Taliban might even assist us in our new efforts.
Get off Biden’s neck and give him a break. Let’s see what he does next.