There is no doubt the chaos of the past days from Kabul, Afghanistan has been painful to watch. Maddening in fact. The meltdown was as much an intelligence disaster for the United States as it is a military one for the former Afghan government.
There is also no doubt that President Biden showed leadership by taking resolute action to remove our footprint from that nation. There was no path forward for those wishing of a military ‘victory’ or for the desires among some to plant a form of ‘democracy’ on that terrain. Such hard truths are not easy to take as citizens, but we must be adult enough to grasp the wisdom shown when a leader makes a tough call.
We must be mindful when dealing with international relations to know there are times when no good answers exist, and one needs to accept the least of the worse ones listed.
There are legitimate questions to be answered about the planning for the drawdown in U.S. troops and State Department employees. There needs to be a better answer provided about the reasoning as to the timing of when groups of Americans were to leave, and at the same time not unbalance the Kabul leadership, sending them into panic mode.
While all can agree events on the ground could be worse–and they could be much worse given the outlandish nature of the Taliban–does not remove the need to analyze what did go so miserably wrong with the execution of our withdrawal.
There are concerns aplenty about not only American personnel, but also the many Afghan citizens who worked either with our government, news organizations, or national relief organizations. Many of us have pressed for quicker application processes to get Afghan citizens who provided so much help the assistance they now need to flee the country.
What was most disheartening to watch unfold over the past days were the military forces within Afghanistan who completely relinquished not only their weapons but also their responsibility to the country. Their lack of willingness to fight for their own country underscores one of the problems that has long simmered during this 20-year process that we have watched play out.
If the Afghan citizens will not stand up for their own country, fight for their own interests, one has to rightfully ask how many more years should America contribute resources and personnel to undertake a mission that they themselves do not find important enough to contribute to.
President Biden committed himself to the removal of American forces during the 2020 presidential campaign. The previous person to sit in the White House had often talked about our nation’s “endless wars” and in a strange overlapping of the issue, there is a large bipartisan segment of the nation who share such views.
There is no way to predict the fallout from this weekend, or the days to come, but the chaos of actual events, along with the heated rhetoric from the usual crowd might not be aligned with the larger mood of the country. I suspect there is a “silent majority’ who endorse our removal from Afghanistan this month.
President Biden told the nation there was no more reason to wait for another year, or five years, or a decade. The dynamics on the ground in Afghanistan were not going to change.
While I view the world through the eyes of an internationalist, and my loathing of the Taliban really has no limit, I am also a pragmatist. While I understand the role our nation can and should play in the world and the power we wield both in terms of military power and diplomatic finesse, I also recognize limitations on those levers we can use.
With all the hope and resources at our nation’s disposal none of it matters, however, if those we seek to lift up or advance are not willing to embrace it or not able to sustain it.
President Biden is going to face harsh political winds from both his opposition and from within his party. He is experienced enough to understand that this was bound to happen. International relations and political fallout have always gone hand-in-hand and he is no novice. He knows the current political storm will be a serious one.
So it is incumbent upon the majority of the nation to step apart from the political rhetoric and embrace the reality of the decision that had to be made.
Our president has demonstrated leadership with a calm and resolute nature, a high degree of common sense, and with no doubt, some thought given to President Washington urging our nation to restrain itself from global entanglements. Biden has made it clear that more lives should not be lost or more national treasure expended. He refuses to hand this problem off to yet another person to sit in the White House.
President Biden has rightly concluded this chapter.