On October 7, 2001, President George W. Bush announced the start of American military operations in Afghanistan.
On April 14, 2021, President Joe Biden announced US withdrawal from Afghanistan effective September 11, 2021. He delivered his exit address in the same place in the White House that Bush kicked off what Biden called the “forever war.”
After nearly 20 years, our longest war is about to end. Finally.
American objectives were achieved in 2011 with the death of Osama Bin Laden but we stayed and stayed and stayed.
The military has a term for what happened in Afghanistan: Mission Creep. We moved from fighting terrorists to nation building. We haven’t been adept at nation building since the Marshall Plan. It did not go well in Afghanistan.
Biden was one of the dovish members of the Obama administration when it came to Afghanistan. He favored withdrawal after Bin Laden’s death. We stayed, we surged, we stayed.
No foreign power has ever won a war in Afghanistan. Its mountainous terrain means that there will always be insurgents in the mountains shooting at the government. Same as it ever was.
In the 19th Century great power tussling over Afghanistan was called “the great game.” It was strictly for losers. The Soviet Union learned that the hard way between 1979-1989.
The Taliban are horrible but American military might was only able to hold them at bay. It’s an unwinnable war.
I know there are many who will loudly insist that diplomacy cannot succeed without a robust US military presence to stand as leverage. We gave that argument a decade. It’s never proved effective, not when we had 98,000 troops in Afghanistan and not when we were down to a few thousand. Our diplomacy does not hinge on having boots in harm’s way, US boots on the ground. We have to change that thinking. American troops shouldn’t be used as a bargaining chip between warring parties in other countries. That’s nothing more than a recipe for keeping American troops in Afghanistan indefinitely.
I also know there are many who’ll argue that we should stay, stay fighting in Afghanistan because withdrawal would damage America’s credibility and weaken America’s influence in the world. I believe the exact opposite is true. We went to Afghanistan because of a horrific attack that happened 20 years ago. That cannot explain why we should remain there in 2021.
Finally some finality.
The last word goes to Yes: