The Afghan situation . . .
I have no special insight on any foreign policy issue, but if you’re interested in a no-nonsense defense of Biden’s policy see this post by Scott Lemieux.
His key points are (my interpretation/paraphrase):
Long term low-engagement occupation was not a serious option, the only choices on the table were long term escalation or pulling out. (This is an important point to me. If low-engagement occupation could have worked long-term, that would have been worth serious consideration, given the suffering the Taliban are going to inflict on the Afghan people.)
The military was strongly in favor of continued occupation, which meant that they could not be trusted to implement a pull out of Afghan civilians in a timely way. (Josh Marshall makes a similar point here.)
Biden will be heavily criticized because the Afghan government fell much more quickly than he predicted. But he should hit back hard:
The quick collapse of the corrupt Afghan army after 20 years and tens of billions spent on training and equipment is the clearest possible evidence that there was no path to victory or stability in Afghanistan.
The fact is that Biden said he would get us out of Afghanistan and he did. He knew it would be ugly and he would be harshly criticized, but he stepped up to the plate. Trump said he would withdraw, but when push came to shove he just waffled and punted.
Shoulda been done years ago. Its a terrible disaster but more time and more money weren’t gonna fix it.
All that money and lives to kill a guy who was actually living in Pakistan.
I may be dreaming (I’m very good at — or prone — to that) but I hope Afgan women who have been living outside Taliban influence will resist going back to the old ways. In “Zoom world” everybody wants the same thing whether they live in Kabul or New York City.
Also, the Taliban will have to govern now — that may not turn out too be easy for them.
All we had to do was let 2500 troops vegetate and we might have bought another five or ten years or real world freedom. A stinking tragedy.
Biden Delivers on Trump’s Afghan Exit as the Taliban Surges
Donald Trump made the politically popular pledge to bring U.S. troops home from the nation’s longest war. Now Joe Biden is delivering on the promise — and reaping growing criticism over the grim results that are unfolding in Afghanistan.
The U.S.-trained Afghan military is shrinking back as Taliban insurgents seize provincial capitals and reimpose their fundamentalist views. As they take towns and commandeer security checkpoints, waves of desperate people are fleeing their takeover. The situation is an especially difficult challenge for President Biden, who has committed to champion human rights and democratic values.
Some of Biden’s fellow Democrats are expressing particular alarm that the Taliban’s rapid advance is already bringing a return to the attacks on women and other human rights violations familiar from its earlier rule of the country. …
Former President Trump made the call to bring American troops home a central part of his “America First” foreign policy. It’s proved popular, at least until now. An Economist/YouGov poll taken in July found 57% of Americans favored withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, while just 20% opposed it.
The drawdown moved forward despite warnings from an array of figures — from former Democratic Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — that a withdrawal could return Afghanistan to control by the Taliban, which ruled until U.S. forces invaded in 2001 in the name of defeating the al-Qaeda terrorists behind the Sept. 11 attacks. …
Trump said in a statement Thursday that he would have overseen a “conditions-based withdrawal” and that he “personally had discussions with top Taliban leaders where they understood what they are doing now would not have been acceptable.” …
Biden has said U.S. troops have done all they can in Afghanistan — with thousands of Americans killed and wounded and more than $1 trillion spent over 20 years while training and equipping more than 300,000 Afghan forces. …
Seth Moulton is an Afghan War veteran, something of a liberal firebrand (at times
anti-Pelosi) Dem Congressman from Massachusetts who spoke out over the weekend.
Afghanistan Chaos Nothing ‘Short Of A Disaster’
SALEM, MA — U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Salem) slammed American evacuation efforts in Afghanistan as the county at the center of a 20-year war descended into chaos amid a Taliban takeover this weekend.
“To say that today is anything short of a disaster would be dishonest,” Moulton said in a statement on Sunday. “Worse, it was avoidable. The time to debate whether we stay in Afghanistan has passed, but there is still time to debate how we manage our retreat.”
Moulton said he has been calling on the Biden Administration to evacuate those who supported the 20-year American mission in opposition of the Taliban for months, and “not wait for paperwork, for shaky agreements with third countries, or for time to make it look more ‘orderly.'”
Moulton, an Iraq War veteran, said he was proud of Congress for voting to expand the Special Immigrant Visa program to support Afghan residents who helped American interests, but what was needed was an immediate evacuation.
“The fact that, at this hour, we have not even secured the civilian half of Kabul Airport is testament to our moral and operational failure,” Moulton said Sunday afternoon. “We need to rectify this immediately. America and our allies must drop the onerous visa requirements where a typo can condemn an ally to torture and death, and the military must continue the evacuation for as long as it takes.”
Moulton primarily blamed the Trump Administration and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for negotiating “in secret with the Taliban terrorists last year in order to meet a campaign promise.”
He added that Congress should be “ashamed” for not holding votes re-authorizing the conflict, as provided by the U.S. Constitution, and acknowledged the events of this weekend were especially difficult domestically on all veterans who served in Afghanistan over the past 20 years.
“I am too honest to stand here today and try to convince you that your sacrifice was worth it,” Moulton allowed. “Some will find solace in the millions of Afghans, especially women and girls, to whom we gave two decades of a taste of freedom — more hope, liberty, and opportunity than they would have ever had without the tireless work and irreparable sacrifices of our troops.
“We accomplished our initial mission: Osama Bin Laden is dead and the threat of terrorist attacks against Americans originating from Afghanistan is diminished. We also provided the security needed to accomplish a peace process that, unfortunately, was never realized.”
Massachusetts veterans watch Afghan government collapse with despair
At the end of the day, the Taliban took over because the Afghan people let them. The folks who stormed the Capitol on January 6 and their Republican enablers would have/will do the same thing if the American public lets them. Certainly, the right in this country is a lot closer to the Taliban than the left is to the Bolsheviks.
My brother, who was then 50, finished his tour in Afghanistan a decade ago. When he came back I asked him if it was a waste of blood and treasure. He said totally. Whenever we leave the Taliban will be back in control in a couple of weeks.
I guess when they were talking about how this would be nothing at all like Vietnam they were referring to the weather, desert instead of rainforest.
After 20 years in country, it is crystal clear that the Afghan national army (300K on paper) and really the Afghan state was just an illusion. It could not survive first contact with a post-US military reality (75K strong Taliban army). The collective unwillingness to endure this reality is what has kept the US in the country for at least a decade. Someone had to make the decision that Bush, Obama and Trump did not and apparently could not.
Who fought the Vietnamese, was it us or the politicians? The same for Afghanistan. We go where we are told to go. It has little to do with the people and most to do with the politics of our country. You can not create what never existed and we made it worse.