Alternatives in Afghanistan

Alternatives in Afghanistan August 18, 2021

In our post on the debacle in Afghanistan, we admitted that we were lamenting both our involvement in Afghanistan and the ending of that involvement, not really knowing what a good solution would look like.  Well, as some observers have been pointing out, there were alternatives to our humiliating rout.

Some have pointed out that the issue isn’t just about leaving Afghanistan, it’s how we left.  Those who agree that we should have withdrawn–even liberal pundits at The New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR, and CNN–are admitting that the execution of the withdrawal was badly botched by President Biden.

Instead of an orderly retreat, during which we could have evacuated our civilians and allies, removed our military equipment, cleaned out our embassy of intelligence documents, and orchestrated an orderly transfer of power, our military was evacuated first, before any of these important matters were taken care of.

From Charles C. W. Cook:

Surely, it must be possible to believe that the United States should have got out of Afghanistan — indeed, to believe that the United States should have left the country completely — without believing that it was a good idea to do it in this order? Why on earth did the United States pull its military personnel before its citizens were all out? Before the diplomats were out? Before we had extracted every civilian we wanted to come back to the United States with us? Before we’d removed any military hardware that might fall into the Taliban’s hands? Before we had shredded any sensitive documents? Before we let the thousands of the dangerous prisoners we’ve spent the last twenty years rounding up join right back up with their friends?

Another alternative would have been continuing the status quo, which, it is claimed, is not what the public assumes it to be. H. R. McMaster and Bradley Bowman point out that we only had 3,500 troops in Afghanistan, and they were not in a combat role.  It had been a year and a half since a soldier was killed in action.  Rather, the Afghan army, bucked up by American advisors and support personnel, were doing the fighting against the Taliban.  Continuing to do this would not be a “forever war,” anymore than our continued military presence in Germany or Korea means that World War II and the Korean War are continuing.

From Ben Sasse:

Politicians don’t tell this truth: America didn’t have a nation-building occupation force in Afghanistan. The last time we had 100,000 troops in the country was a decade ago. We’re not waging “endless wars” in Afghanistan any more than we’re waging endless wars in South Korea, Germany, or Japan — or Kosovo, or Honduras, or any number of other nations where we have forward-deployed forces. A relatively small number of troops has successfully supported our Afghan allies by providing the backbone for intelligence and special-operations missions. Americans weren’t building empires or fighting unwinnable battles. We were defending airfields and decapitating terror organizations while keeping a light footprint. Americans have heard of some high-profile goons, such as Qasem Soleimani and Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. But our heroes in Afghanistan have killed a lot more Bin Laden wannabes whose names you don’t know — precisely because we killed them before they could take down a World Trade Center. We fought and won this war in Afghanistan, not on American shores. But you wouldn’t realize that from the isolationist rhetoric surrounding Biden’s choices.

Can you think of other alternatives?


Image by Amber Clay from Pixabay 

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