Douglas Andrews / July 9, 2021

Afghanistan: Our Troops Deserved a Better End

It was time to go, but Joe Biden’s chaotic, dead-of-night departure was a disgrace.

On October 7, 2001, our nation, still reeling from the world-altering terrorist attack of a month earlier, launched Operation Enduring Freedom. We did so with fearsome airstrikes from B-1s, B-2s, B-52s, and assorted carrier-based strikes that pounded our al-Qaida and Taliban enemies where they lived — in Afghanistan. Our ground forces followed soon thereafter, and elements of them have been there ever since.

Said President George W. Bush at the time: “When I take action, I’m not going to fire a $2 million missile at an empty $10 tent and hit a camel in the butt” – an obvious swipe at his White House predecessor, Bill Clinton, who never took the fight to our jihadist foes. Said Bush’s defense secretary, the recently deceased Donald Rumsfeld, to a curious reporter at a press briefing: “We aren’t running out of targets – Afghanistan is.”

How times have changed.

Yesterday, President Joe Biden said our military mission in Afghanistan will end by August 31, and he called on the country’s leaders to “come together” to prevent civil war. “We did not go to Afghanistan to nation build,” he said.

Nor did we go there and spend 20 years of American blood and treasure only to slink away in the dead of night. Our troops deserved better. Much better. They deserved to form up and march away in broad daylight, chins up and chests out. Instead, as Fox News reports:

Taliban forces are gaining momentum, pushing the Afghanistan government’s forces out of several districts and taking control of various weapons and military vehicles in the process, while the U.S. withdraws from the country.

Insurgents have taken 900 guns, 70 sniper rifles, and 65 vehicles, Sky News reported. While this happens, the Afghanistan government continues to lose territory, having already left seven districts as the Taliban assumes control. U.S. Central Command announced Tuesday that the drawdown is more than 90% complete and handed over seven facilities to the Afghan military.

The Associated Press reported that the U.S. did not even tell Afghanistan when they were departing the Bagram Airfield. After controlling the space for roughly 20 years, American forces shut off the electricity and left at night without informing the base’s new Afghan commander, the AP reported. Afghan military officials said looters came in and damaged the base before Afghanistan’s army could assume control.

National security analyst Thomas Jocelyn recently outlined the reality on the ground: “Just two weeks after President Biden announced on April 14 his decision to withdraw all American forces from Afghanistan … the Taliban launched a massive offensive. Since May 1, the jihadists have captured a large swath of the country, laying the groundwork for the resurrection of their Islamic emirate. America and its allies have remained mostly indifferent — retreating from the battlefield as the jihadists advance. This is what a lost war looks like.”

Imagine that. The Taliban can’t be trusted. Perhaps that’s why Biden got a bit testy yesterday with a PBS journalist.

When asked whether he trusted the Taliban, Biden answered, “Is that a serious question? No, I do not trust the Taliban. It’s a silly question. Do I trust the Taliban? No.”

It should be noted that we negotiated our withdrawal from Afghanistan with the Taliban.

As the Wall Street Journal editorial board reports, Biden dismissed any suggestions that today’s departure from the Afghan capital of Kabul is anything akin to our nation’s departure from the South Vietnamese capital of Saigon in 1975. “Let’s hope he’s right,” they write, “but the trends aren’t good, which is why the press is finally daring to ask hard questions. Mr. Biden denied media reports that the U.S. intelligence community estimates that the Kabul government could fall within six months.”

What must our warriors be thinking? Twenty years, and all our efforts could be overturned in a few months? Here’s a sample of what they’re thinking, and it comes from Captain Sam Brown, a disabled U.S. Army vet who nearly burned to death in Afghanistan: “Our abrupt departure did real damage to the Afghan army’s chances of success. The equipment, vehicles, arms and ammunition we left behind have now been looted by the Taliban, strengthening an enemy that enthusiastically supports terrorism. What we tried to accomplish as a nation, what I and so many other fought for was damaged by the Biden administration’s negligence.”

On the bright side, as the Journal notes: “Mr. Biden has finally agreed to have Afghan translators and their families who helped Americans airlifted to a third country as they await the visas to the U.S. they were promised. This is welcome news, but it underscores how perilous life will be for our Afghan allies as the Taliban take more territory.”

Summing up: It was time to leave Afghanistan. On this matter, Presidents Donald Trump and Joe Biden and the vast majority of the American people agree. But the way we’re leaving is disgraceful. And it is, sadly, an exit all too befitting our current commander-in-chief.

Again: Our troops deserved better.

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