Op-ed: Afghanistan Withdrawal was Shambolic

5f17bd50a561b imageMy Op-ed ran in today’s Moscow-Pullman Daily News.

John Adams wrote “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious [Christian] people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” It is an exercise in futility to try and cajole democracy onto Islamic fundamentalists who prefer a Sharia utopia. I am against our never-ending “war on terror,” but what we have done in the last two weeks to withdraw from Afghanistan is criminal.

As of April 2021, the US has spent $1 trillion in Afghanistan and lost the lives of 2,448 service members, 3,846 US contractors, 1,144 NATO service members, 444 aid workers, and 72 journalists. But the death toll doesn’t stop there. 66,000 Afghan national military and police, 47,245 Afghan civilians, and 51,191 Taliban and other opposition fighters also died.

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It is disingenuous for President Biden to blame Trump for negotiating the February 2020 “Doha Agreement“ to exit Afghanistan when Biden himself would have done the same. He has been against the occupancy of Iran and Afghanistan since the beginning.

  • In November 2009, Biden opposed Obama’s troop surge in Afghanistan.
  • In 2011, Biden supported withdrawing America’s diminished troop presence in Iraq, predicting that Iraq “could be one of the great achievements of this [Obama] administration.”
  • President Biden’s son, Beau, served in Iraq. In a televised speech before a cemetery visit on 14 April 2021, Biden cited Beau’s military experience as one of the reasons for deciding to withdraw all 2,500 remaining US troops by Sept. 11th.

I learned long ago that it’s important to do the right thing at the right time in the right way. It is the right thing to be out of Afghanistan. Some say that exiting Afghanistan shows a lack of support for the troops. Ron Paul’s response says it best, “The constant refrain that bringing our troops home would demonstrate a lack of support for them must be one of the most amazing distortions ever foisted on the American public.” Leaving American soldiers in Afghanistan to be killed is just the opposite of supporting the troops.

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However, Biden’s shambolic withdrawal from Afghanistan is anything but exiting the right way. Leaving behind a trail of bodies and giving the Taliban a $90 billion military arsenal explicitly demonstrates a lack of support for the troops and for the over one hundred thousand lives lost during the past twenty years.

The military should have been the last to exit Afghanistan with civilians and equipment coming first. Instead, Biden first cut the number of troops to 700, making it impossible to evacuate the civilians using Bagram Air Base. We witnessed the devastating effects of that decision. By drawing down our troop numbers first, the Taliban and ISIS-K were able to swoop in without enough manpower to keep them at bay. It forced the military, civilians, and the US embassy to fall back to Hamid Karzai International Airport, with its single runway, surrounded by mountains and a city of four million people.

While we once treated the Taliban like the dangerous, unreasonable force that they are, we are now attempting to negotiate with them as equals. Can the leopard change its spots? Do we really expect them to uphold western standards for diplomacy and safety?

While Biden’s September 11th withdrawal date is clearly meant to be symbolic, the failures displayed by his leadership have instead turned our withdrawal into a mockery of 9/11. What is meant to be a day of mourning is now being compounded by tragedy and embarrassment through our unceremonious withdrawal from all that American troops have been working toward for the last 20 years. Perhaps the blow wouldn’t land as such a victory for the Taliban if Biden had chosen another date, like 7 October, marking our 20th anniversary of Afghan occupation.

This gross misuse of 9/11 as a symbol seems so obvious that it compounds Biden’s ridiculousness at a time when he has little dignity to spare. Our haphazard withdrawal has sent a clear message that we will not protect our allies in the Middle East, making it even harder for the west to keep the dangerous ideologies coming from the Taliban and ISIS at bay when it really counts.