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Afghanistan: Biden got it so wrong – AND so right!
Saturday, 02 October 2021 12:00
Syndicated Columnist


When it comes to Afghanistan, it’s hard to believe how President Biden could get it so right and so wrong at the same time. 

I’m talking about two issues: the war in Afghanistan, and how it ended. 

Most of the media has been – wrongly, I believe – focused on the second.

On that point, no doubt about it, Biden ended this war in the worst possible way: badly underestimating the Taliban’s strength to take over; trusting the corrupt Afghan government to show at least a little resistance; having no plan in place to extricate thousands of American diplomats and contractors and Afghan civilians who worked with American troops; and showing little regret or empathy when things went south.

Thankfully, after three days of chaos, the situation has improved. American troops control both Kabul airports. Commercial and military flights are leaving around the clock, jammed with refugees. 

Thousands have already been rescued, and the Taliban has been warned not to interfere until the evacuation is complete. But Biden still gets the blame for not acting sooner. It happened on his watch. 

As he admitted in his address to the nation, “The buck stops with me.”

Without absolving him of blame for getting the exit from Afghanistan so wrong, you must admit Biden was dealt two bad hands: one, by Donald Trump; the other, by U.S. intelligence agencies. 

It was Trump who legitimized the Taliban by signing a deal with them in February 2020, without involving the Afghan government.

Under terms of that agreement, Trump promised to withdraw troops from Afghanistan by May 1, 2021. It was “time for someone else to do the work,” Trump declared, “and it will be the Taliban.” He even floated the idea of inviting the Taliban to Camp David! 

Once that deal was made, Afghan tribal leaders knew U.S. forces would soon be gone, and they started making deals with the Taliban. From then on, the fall of the Afghan government was inevitable.

Biden was also undermined by U.S. intelligence agencies. According to sources I spoke with, the CIA warned that the Taliban was stronger than we realized and urged getting Americans out of the country immediately. 

Meanwhile, Pentagon generals insisted they’d have weeks to organize an orderly withdrawal. Unfortunately, Biden believed the generals, leading directly to the mess that happened.

But here’s what’s getting lost in all the hand-wringing over the disaster at Kabul airport. And here’s what’s more important: While nobody can defend how Biden ended the war, nobody can dispute this central fact: He was absolutely right to pull the plug.

The war in Afghanistan lasted too long, almost 20 years. It cost too much, over $2 trillion. It took too many lives, almost 2,500 Americans and some 200,000 or more Afghan casualties. And it accomplished absolutely nothing. The Taliban were in charge when we arrived in Afghanistan; they’re back in charge today.

The fact is, we should have ended the war in Afghanistan in six months, once our initial mission of routing al-Qaida was accomplished. Instead, having learned nothing from history, and in a classic case of American hubris, we launched a fruitless exercise to build a strong central government in a country that’s never known or wanted one.

Forget those Monday morning quarterbacks who now argue: “If Only.” If only we’d kept troops there for another five months or a year. Nonsense! The Pentagon’s been making that same argument for 20 years. There’s no way that staying any longer in Afghanistan would have changed the outcome, especially when the Afghan military showed no willingness to defend their own country.

We gave it our best. Twenty years! But the cold, hard truth is: We can’t fight for a country that refuses to fight for itself. It’s immoral to send any more of our sons and daughters to do so.

Again, as fun as it is to cast blame – and there’s plenty of blame to go around: from the Afghan government and military to Trump, our own intelligence agencies, and Biden himself – let’s not lose sight of what’s most important. Here’s the good news: America’s longest war is finally over! Now we can divert the resources we’ve so long wasted in building Afghanistan into rebuilding America.

The overwhelming majority of Americans don’t want this war. Three presidents promised to end it, but didn’t. Joe Biden did. And in the end, that’s what counts. 

History will remember that Joe Biden ended the war in Afghanistan. History will not remember two days of chaos at the Kabul airport.
©2021 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.



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