30 August 2022

Afghanistan withdrawal anniversary: Painful lessons from 20 years at war Has America reverted to the situation in 2001 in Afghanistan?

Obeying President Biden’s order, a year ago U.S. troops fled from Afghanistan amid botched planning and chaotic execution. Tens of thousands of Afghans who had loyally served America were abandoned. Thirty million Afghans who had tasted freedom were again oppressed by the medieval Taliban.

Two decades ago, U.S. troops invaded Afghanistan to destroy the al Qaeda terrorist organization. A few weeks ago, a U.S. missile killed Ayman al-Zawahri, the al Qaeda leader living comfortably in Kabul. At a cost of a trillion dollars and the tragic loss of more than 7,000 American and allied servicemen and contractors, the Afghanistan war ended in abject failure that had two root causes.

First, the White House was responsible for the critical decisions. President Bush initiated the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, then later decided to stay to build two democratic nations. He enormously expanded the war objectives without regard for the time required and the costs.

With similar disregard of the costs for failure, Presidents Obama, Trump and Biden were determined to pull out. Due to a Congress where either party now abjectly supports any president from that same party, the White House unilaterally makes war-related decisions. This enables any president to overturn the decisions of his predecessor, undercutting global confidence in America’s steadfastness. President Biden ignored our military commanders who advised we could remain in small numbers with few casualties.

Afghan women wait to receive food distributed by a humanitarian aid group, in Kabul, Afghanistan in April 2022. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Second, the military embraced the mission of nation-building in Afghanistan without the rigor that would have revealed the impossibility of the task. A comparative handful of American troops could not persuade millions of illiterate tribesmen to support a corrupt government in faraway Kabul.

Nor could the American grunts defeat the Islamist insurgents provided sanctuary by treacherous Pakistan. Yet dozens of American generals persisted with operations that every grunt knew were futile. The Pentagon has avoided admitting its basic error and rectifying its decision-making process.

Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri was killed by a U.S. drone strike in Kabul on July 31, 2022. (Maher Attar/Sygma via Getty Images)

Looking forward, has America reverted to the situation in 2001 in Afghanistan? Emphatically, no.

The U.S. has erected impressive internal anti-terrorist defenses. While al Qaeda is back in Afghanistan, its core has crumbled. Thousands of terrorists in gangs only loosely linked to al Qaeda create chaos in a half dozen other countries.

It is regrettable that a Taliban commander was not killed along with al-Zawahri as the cost for harboring al Qaeda. That said, the terrorist threat from Afghanistan is orders of magnitude less than 20 years ago.

The major threat to American security has shifted to the far Pacific. Having watched our arms-length aid to Ukraine and our shameful flight from Afghanistan, Chairman Xi Jinping is increasing his bellicosity against Taiwan, testing to see if the American president will commit our forces or will stand aside.

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