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(171,029 posts)
Sat Aug 14, 2021, 06:56 AM Aug 2021

America's Catastrophic Afghanistan Exit Has Many Fathers [View all]

Good article; pay wall unfortunately.

America’s Catastrophic Afghanistan Exit Has Many Fathers
While history offered U.S. leaders 3,000 years of warnings, it does not offer them an excuse.
David Rothkopf
Published Aug. 13, 2021 5:41PM ET


It is a cliché now, to the extent useful historical context can be characterized as such, to note that the interventions of foreign powers in Afghanistan are typically difficult and more often than not end badly for the invaders. The litany of those who came and went, who grappled with the reality of a largely poor, fragmented tribal society, difficult physical terrain and an ebbing will to pay the price Afghanistan demands of its visitors, is strikingly long. It includes the Persians, the Greeks, Arabs, Mongols, Mughals, Sikhs, the British, the Soviets and to what will be the enduring discredit of America’s leaders, us.


When Biden came into office, he delayed that departure date. But he could not ignore the obvious. America no longer had any pressing national interest in Afghanistan that would warrant a permanent presence like in Germany (to support NATO and offset Russian strength) or in Korea (to help counter the threat from North Korea). Our efforts to support the central government and retrain the military were not gaining necessary traction. Terrorist groups had largely decamped to other parts of the world. Further, Biden had 20 years of evidence that a U.S. presence on the ground would not and could not achieve the kind of stability that would ensure that upon our departure the country would not immediately revert to the Taliban.

So Biden did what his predecessors had not dared to do. He made the hard decision to leave, knowing that the political fallout from the inevitable aftermath would fall on him. (He also knew that stay or go, his critics would attack him.) But there were no better alternatives recommended by anyone. And by leaving, our troops would no longer be at risk, our costs would be contained, and our attentions could be devoted to higher priorities. He and his team correctly argued that the U.S. military was not the way to advance our longer-term objectives in the country, which would have to be handled by diplomats and international institutions.


Joe Biden is doing the right thing. His team is not executing the departure well. He and they bear responsibility for that. But they no more bear the primary responsibility for the fiasco that was America’s longest war than did Gerald Ford did for all our errors in Vietnam when the last U.S. helicopter lifted off the roof of the U.S. embassy in Saigon on April 30 of 1975.

It could be argued that every U.S. administration from Carter through Trump bears greater responsibility for what went wrong with U.S. policy in Afghanistan than Biden’s. What is going on there now is awful. But make no mistake, getting out and getting out now is what we needed to do. Continuing to do what had not worked for two decades would only meet the famed definition of insanity. Biden recognized that it is the job of leaders sometimes to do painful things, things that damage them politically.



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