Is America the beacon of world order or not? If not, then leaving Afghanistan on September 11, 2021, twenty years to the day after the events that got us there in the first place, may be not particularly troubling. But if you believe that there is evil in the world and one of the goals and strengths of the United States is trying to make the world a less evil place, perhaps retreating from Afghanistan now is not a great idea. The United States has armed military troops all over the globe from South Korea to Germany. How we choose to project power against the evil in Beijing or Moscow or even North Korea is an intrinsic part of our foreign policy and an admirable goal for a great democratic nation. Afghanistan is just one other such place. It’s one of the places we are fighting Islamic terrorism so that it doesn’t strike the homeland again. And so far, it’s been a success in that.
These two articles from The New York Times on May 5 make the point in spades, especially the first by current Texas Republican congressman Michael McCaul and Obama ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker. Here are the problems:
We will need eyes and ears on Afghanistan after we leave. Where is that going to come from if we have withdrawn? Are there agreements in place with other reliable players on the ground in Kabul and elsewhere that guarantees the flow of intelligence to the U.S.? I doubt it. Where would it come from? Pakistan?
How will all the newly empowered women of Afghanistan not be thrown back into slavery once the Taliban recaptures the nation? How can such a series of events be avoided without U.S. troops to prop up the current government? We have been instrumental in freeing these women to accomplish in a singular fashion. Are we to abandon them now?
What will happen to all those Afghanis who have helped us Americans mostly as translators? Will they be given visas out of the country or will they be slaughtered by the Taliban?
Finally, has President Biden thought of any of this?
Sure, this is America’s longest war and it may well have been ill-advised to have ever set foot in Afghanistan. I always thought the events of 9/11 were not really an act of war, but a huge criminal enterprise requiring police action such as the assassination of Bin Laden. Just because the terrorists used Afghanistan as the staging area for the 9/11 attacks, doesn’t mean they won’t move around the globe and continue their criminal activities. Al Qaeda is not a nation state. ISIS tried to be and failed. War is usually between nation states and we are not nor should we be at war with either the current Afghan government or the Taliban. On the other hand, if we want to make Afghanistan a free country with women able to thrive, then we will need to stay there in perpetuity. As it is now, we are leaving with no plans to preserve any of the gains made under the American invasion.
It is likely that the Taliban will recapture the country and enslave the women again. Thus, Mr. Biden has decided that America doesn’t care if that happens. If that’s so, why did we go in the first place? If it was to end the reign of Al Qaeda, we failed. This sure looks a lot like Vietnam to me. Then again, I’ve been to Vietnam. It’s a very successful Communist country today. I don’t see Afghanistan becoming a very successful Taliban country though—now, later, ever.