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Harold Hutchison / Mar. 3, 2020

The Endless Stalemate Ends

The peace deal in Afghanistan has pros and cons, but we shouldn’t dismiss what was achieved.

The news that a peace agreement has been reached with the Taliban after 18 years of war has drawn some criticism of President Donald Trump from Patriots concerned about national security. We in our humble shop agree with Rep. Liz Cheney and former National Security Advisor John Bolton that this deal comes with risks.

That said, we also have long thought that Afghanistan had reached a point where there were no good options. As we also have noted, there was no clear idea of what victory looked like and how it would be achieved. Thus, the war effort became a mess that was largely passed off to Special Operations Command (SOCOM).

Even under George W. Bush, who was serious about winning, America pulled punches that should have been allowed to go full-force. Dalton Fury revealed in 2008 that requests to use modern GATOR mines were rejected during the Battle of Tora Bora. These mines would have self-destructed or gone inert within 40 days. But micromanaging from Washington allowed Osama bin Laden to make it into Pakistan, where he hid out for nearly a decade.

The betrayal of Patriots who served — like James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, who played crucial roles in getting Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to spill his guts — also raised questions about how serious those in Washington were about winning.

Yet we were supposed to let SOCOM send its highly trained operatives on numerous deployments to that region with no clue about how to win or what winning looked like? How numerous were those deployments? Here is one indicator: The first military casualty during President Trump’s administration had been sent on 12 deployments.

We should not dismiss what was achieved: Afghanistan has a freely elected government. We have killed or captured a lot of the senior leadership of al-Qaida. We have not seen anything like another 9/11. We have trained an Afghan military that is capable of defending that country. We should be proud of what our troops, including those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, accomplished.

But we should also keep some things in mind. We have lessons to learn from this war. We should, as a country, resolve that when we do ask our troops to fight and risk being maimed or killed, they be allowed to win.

Whether this peace agreement will hold is an open question. Could the Taliban merely be using this as a chance to re-arm and gain strength to go after the Afghan government? We can’t rule that out. If that should happen, then the Taliban must pay a fearsome price for breaking the deal.

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