Reagan Eastlick

Afghanistan and the mission we forgot

For the first time in a long time, there seems to be unity in America, but at what price?

When the United States entered Afghanistan 20 years ago, we did it together. Sept. 11 struck dumb the dissidents and party lines, leaving simply the unspoken promise to kill those who killed our own. We entered this war together, and our leaving may bring us together as well. Why? Not for some noble reason, but instead because of our president’s gross misinterpretation of what the Afghanistan war was.

Afghanistan was not an endless war; it was an occupation. Our mission, the American mission, should never have been construed as an introduction of democracy into the Middle East. Our objective was simple: punish terrorist groups for killing nearly 3,000 American citizens and prevent them from ever doing it again. That task cost hundreds of lives while we were establishing ourselves in Afghanistan – but once established, risk to U.S. soldiers greatly diminished. 

When Biden proposed to exit Afghanistan, he proposed we withdraw a 2,500 person skeleton force of American troops which, up until that point, were preventing a Taliban takeover. That number is tiny because gradual dissolution of troops had already begun under the Trump administration. The exodus was slow, measured, and contingent upon Taliban cooperation. The Biden approach was sudden, unregulated, and unconditional. 

Biden was given intelligence briefs which said, in no uncertain terms, that a swift withdrawal would add major instability to the region and prove disastrous to American interests. Biden ignored all warnings and withdrew quickly with no contingency plans. The result of his incompetence is the disaster seen today: American citizens and Afghan allies alike will be left behind, and the fault is entirely Biden’s. There is no excuse. If any other administration had committed the same transgression, I would issue the same reprimand. 

We should have stayed in Afghanistan for one reason only: by having troops and bases in Afghanistan’s major cities, the U.S. proactively prevented terrorist attacks on the mainland. For 20 years our strategy of occupation was successful, proven and vivified by the lack of another Sept. 11. We withdrew and gave up our hard earned prize for nothing in return, ignoring Trump-era guidelines. For absolutely nothing. 

Our President’s search for a political win yielded a loss of common sense.”

Within ten years it is extraordinarily likely there will be a major attack on the mainland United States by terrorist units operating within Afghanistan. Our President’s search for a political win yielded a loss of common sense. There is no glory in disregarding intelligence briefings. There is no prestige in withdrawing troops to the detriment of American allies and interests. And there is certainly no honor in a man who refuses to acknowledge American blood on his hands. 

Despite all this, the Afghanistan situation created an unusual American condition: agreement. Biden’s approval rating on his handling of Afghanistan resides at a measly 26%. Major media outlets are unusually objective in their reporting; this newfound objectivity has led to long sought and seldom granted bipartisan agreement. We have achieved unity through disaster, as we so often do, but at a terrible price. 

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