Biden Makes Afghanistan Surrender Bipartisan
“It’s just a travesty. We will pay the price, and we’ll be back. We’ll have to go back, and at a much higher cost.” – H.R. McMaster, former National Security Advisor on what was at the time the Trump Administration’s determination to appease the Taliban
I noted McMaster’s frustrations (which I share) when he aired them about six months ago. At the time, I still held a faint hope that a Biden Administration would see things differently, recognizing that the Taliban were not to be appeased and that Afghanistan should not be surrendered to them.
My hopes were dashed t0day (Washington Post).
President Biden will withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan over the coming months, people familiar with the plans said, completing the military exit by the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that first drew the United States into its longest war.
The rest of the piece follows a familiar, if maddening, script regarding Afghanistan: denial on the Taliban being an enemy, utter silence on its still ongoing alliance to al Qaeda, assertion that “disrupting” terrorists was the real goal rather than defeating them, and promises of isolating and sanctioning the Taliban if they drag Afghanistan backward – never mind that only three governments recognized them on 9/11/01.
So President Biden decided to make good on his bipartisanship promise on the one issue that makes it abundantly clear that nothing is as bad as when Democrats and Republicans argue – except for when they agree to a mistake. Donald Trump will be sure to take credit for this, and given how much he wanted to surrender Afghanistan to the Taliban, he certainly deserves it.
As for me, McMaster’s words will ring in my ears as I remember how Barack Obama crowed about our troops leaving Iraq in 2011, just be forced to return them in 2014. I will wonder why President Biden – knowing full well that the enemy hasn’t held up its end of Trump’s “peace” deal – is merely delaying their victory by six months. I will lament the usually subtle and occasionally overt racism behind “analysis” that insists Afghanistan in 2021 just can’t do national democracy – something no one said about Germany in 1945 (when it had less tenure as a united nation and was far more a villain than a victim in geopolitics).
More than anything else, though, I will prepare myself for a future in which the Taliban and al Qaeda claim victory, reassert tyrannical control over the Afghan people, place America back in their sights for terrorist attacks, and offer themselves to authoritarian regimes once more as tools for “some kind of check on U.S. power.”
For the Afghan people themselves, this would be an utter disaster and a breach of trust, as Max Boot noted.
Think of all the girls going to school, all the women in the workforce, all the brave soldiers and police officers fighting the Taliban despite heavy casualties, all the young entrepreneurs starting businesses, all the government officials trying to build a fragile democracy. Yes, there are many abusive and crooked officials on the government side — and their depredations have done much damage to the government’s cause.
But there are also many millions of ordinary Afghans who simply want a decent life and don’t want to be ruled by the Taliban.
Those still drinking the isolationist kool-aid will care little about the 38 million-plus Afghans forced to endure Taliban tyranny again, but America would not be spared the consequences. Here’s what the Afghan Study Group, led by former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr. (retired), had to say about the effects of an American troop withdrawal (cited by Boot – emphasis added).
“…under current conditions (a withdrawal) will likely lead to a collapse of the Afghan state and a possible renewed civil war.” The study group warns that “a precipitous withdrawal could lead to a reconstitution of the terrorist threat to the U.S. homeland within eighteen months to three years.”
I cannot claim to know how many lives will be lost – there or here – as a result of the new consensus to sell Afghanistan down the river and to lose this war. I do know it’s not the end of the story. H.R. McMaster’s words still ring painfully true.
We will pay the price, and we’ll be back. We’ll have to go back, and at a much higher cost.