Afghanistan Withdrawal: A Lasting Travesty

This week marked the one-year anniversary of our American military’s disastrous, purely-politically-driven (it certainly appeared), and all-too-rapid departure from the nation of Afghanistan.  A departure that seemed to be dictated solely by domestic U.S. political (White House) considerations, and not by any logic or American military reality.

There is little question that a reasonable U.S. force, perhaps as limited as one Army brigade, could have helped keep Afghanistan stabilized.  Not conquered, just effectively stabilized. Along, of course, with the assistance of the U.S.-trained Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and other limited military units provided by our allies.  Military members there for their visible presence and patrols, plus rapid response to help quell any insurgent disturbances around the country.  We had a large, well-equipped and sustainable air base there at Bagram for supplies, manpower, and headquartering, plus daily visibility in Kabul, the capital.  All of that effective, common-sense, and calming presence was demolished when the White House insisted on a complete withdrawal of our military forces by a politically-dictated date-certain in August of 2021.

Chaos and disaster, then, ensued.  Highlighted, you’ll recall, by a suicide bomber at the Kabul airport (we mistakenly gave up Bagram) who killed 13 American military members, and about 200 Afghans amidst the swarm of humanity suddenly trying to leave the country. Even before our military had left Kabul, the Taliban had assumed control of the capital, and the existing Afghan president had fled.

With complete lack of effective planning, due to the imposed haste of the withdrawal, we presume, the American military reportedly left over $7-Billion worth of invaluable military equipment, which then conveniently equipped the Taliban and other militant anti-America factions.  And anything they couldn’t operate, there’s no question that Russian or Chinese advisors would readily be able to provide the necessary training!  Included were a huge number of ground vehicles (Humvees & MRAPS), almost a billion dollars’ worth of military aircraft (reportedly some of which were “rendered inoperable!), and over $500-million in small arms (“sniper rifles, machine guns & grenade launchers”).   In a letter to the Secretary of Defense, a committee of Congressional Republicans expressed their extreme displeasure over all of this invaluable equipment left behind: “It is unconscionable that high-tech military equipment, paid for by U.S. taxpayers, has fallen into the hands of the Taliban and their terrorist allies.  Securing U.S. assets should have been among the top priorities for the U.S. Department of Defense prior to announcing the withdrawal from Afghanistan.” An inexcusable case of foolhardy political haste and demands overriding our essential military reality.  Decisions that could well, one day, come back to haunt us. Especially now, for the past year and a half, with an open door at our southern border for all manner of migrants, criminals and terrorists alike, to just come on in and disappear.

Mr. Biden famously referred to his sudden withdraw from Afghanistan as an “extraordinary success,” as we now, well know to be, a misstatement for the ages. So, then, what about that nation and its people, once flourishing under American and allied military presence, but now tightly controlled by the ruling Taliban government.  Wrote Vijeta Uniyal: “As the world marks one year since President Joe Biden’s botched Afghanistan withdrawal, the Taliban-ruled country has become a safe haven for global jihad terrorism and a hellhole for its forty million people.” Wrote DW News (German) regarding a United Nations report: “Internal concern is building over the presence of al-Qaida, ISIS and many other terrorist groups and fighters on Afghan soil.” And then this from NBC News, regarding the Taliban’s one-year rule since America’s abrupt departure, also referring to the UN Report: “The group (Taliban) had decimated protections for those suffering domestic violence, detained women and girls for minor violations, and contributed to a surge in child marriages the report said, adding that it had reneged on promises to allow women to continue to work and girls to continue their education.  Some of those protesting against the restrictions had been tortured and abused, it said.”

Women and girls enjoyed great relative freedom to work, even in government positions, and to continue educational pursuits, under the American pacifying military presence.  To add to the suffering, reportedly “almost half the population (20-million) now suffers from either “crisis” or “emergency” level food “insecurity.” Sadly, the use of the descriptive term “hellhole” used previously seems to best fit the situation that we unnecessarily created, when we could have easily transitioned (a favorite administration term) to a stability mission there.

In an article referencing that the Taliban is “done pretending to be inclusive,” Frances Martel wrote: “Taliban terrorists have in practice mostly outlawed journalism, banned girls and women from getting an education, done little to curb groups like the Islamic State, harbored high-profile al-Qaeda leaders, and aligned themselves internationally with some the world’s most brutal repressive states, such as China and Russia.” Congressman Michael Waltz (R-Fla.) had some pointed words regarding Mr. Biden’s “chaotic” withdrawal from Afghanistan, now with the vantage point of one-year’s hindsight.  He referred to the withdrawal as “the most coldhearted thing I’ve ever seen, and certainly, the most incompetent.”

Wrote Karl Rove this week in The Wall Street Journal: “President Biden destroyed the value of America’s word, diminished our global influence, and made the world more dangerous when he surrendered in Afghanistan a year ago this week. The Chinese can point to the U.S. retreat as evidence to other nations that America is untrustworthy.  Seeing Mr. Biden abandon Afghanistan may well have emboldened Vladimir Putin to invade Ukraine.”

No question, our hasty and complete military pull-out from Afghanistan last year has created a repressive, humanitarian disaster there in the eyes of freedom-loving people.  Hunger is reportedly now an epidemic for a large portion of the population, but likely not for the Taliban and its followers.  Women and young girls, once encouraged to work and become fully educated, are now suppressed.

So, to say it yet again, if only the White House could have declared victory and delivered on its promise, by negotiating (then, from a position of power) a settlement that permitted the U.S. to remain with a limited military force, assisted by the existing ANSF and some allied help, to maintain relative peace and stability in Afghanistan, that nation would have continued to thrive in at least partial freedom (especially for women) and America would not have apparently given up so much of its world respect and power.  It does make one really think about, although we don’t want to, whether our disastrous complete military withdrawal, and the national weakness it may have accidentally telegraphed, might actually have helped give Russia the green light to invade Ukraine.  And then there’s Taiwan.

If as hoped, the Republicans can regain control of one or both Houses of Congress this November, perhaps we’ll be able to honestly determine whether Pentagon leadership actually tried to stop the obviously errant precipitous Afghan withdrawal and were completely overruled by the White House.  And if so, knowing the high price we might well pay in possible loss of life, loss of equipment, broken promises, and loss of world respect, why was there not significant push back on their part, followed, if ignored, by resignations from Pentagon leadership. Actions that just might have slowed the withdrawal process.  Serious questions remain, about this lingering disaster (such as: how many Americans and Afghan aides are still to be rescued?), hopefully to be answered by future revelations or actions.


($7-billion in military equipment left to the Taliban and quote via, Andrew Mark Miller, 8-18-22; Uniyal & DW News & NBC News quotes on today’s Afghanistan via, Vijeta Uniyal, 8-15-22; Martel Taliban quote via, Frances Martel, 8-14-22; Rep. Waltz quote via, Nicole Wells, 8-17-22; Rove quote via The Wall Street Journal, Karl Rove, 8-18-22).