Friday, August 27, 2021

The Tragedy of the Afghanistan Debacle

Kubul's carnage (NYT)
It’s hard to take my mind off of the carnage that happened yesterday in Afghanistan. 92 people were killed in Kabul’s airport by an ISIS-K (An offshoot of ISIS) suicide bomber. 13 of them were American soldiers. (More attacks like this are expected. And yes, I am angry.)

We are there to help evacuate US personnel and Afghanis who helped us during our 20 year battle with the Taliban. A battle that enabled Afghani citizens to live in the 21st century!

That may not have been our initial goal for going in. That goal was to find and kill the Al Qaida leadership responsible for 9/11 and destroy their ability to ever try that again. But the freedom it gave the Afghan people was more than just a side benefit. It changed for the better by orders of magnitude the way their lived. Taking them out from under the rule of the one of the most extreme forms of Islam. Which – for one thing – treated their women like property whose purpose in life was limited to staying home with no education, serving their husbands needs and desires, and little else.  The last 20 years gave them freedom from all that while remaining devout Muslims. 

This is why I disagreed with former President Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from the region. Our presence there at the time of that decision was minimal. I believe that there were about 3500 American troops there. But that was enough to keep the Taliban at bay. The President felt it was time to leave, made a deal with the devil (the Taliban) and promised to pull out all of our troops by May of this year. In exchange the Taliban would not attack them as they left.  

To the delight of the Taliban the current President doubled down on that decision. But had delayed the American exist until August. He said that our initial mission was accomplished long ago and there was no end in sight to a war that had lasted 20 years and was still ongoing. So he started pulling out our troops. 

That was all the Taliban needed. With astonishing speed (a matter of days) they toppled the democratic government we helped establish (corrupt though it was) and took control over all of Afghanistan. 20 years down the drain. Thousands of Americans killed over that time. Trillions of dollars spent – for what? To go back to what Afghanistan was before we came in? A place where Al Qaida could flourish, plan, and execute one of the deadliest attacks American ever experienced on its mainland? Is there the slightest doubt in anyone's mind that Al Qaida will be reconstituted under the same Taliban in which they flourished 20 years ago? Not in my mind.

But then came ISIS who executed their own mini-version of 9/11. Yesterday was one of the deadliest days in our entire presence there. 

There are those who might argue that ISIS and the Taliban are adversaries. That the ISIS form of extremist Islam is different than the Taliban’s form of extremist Islam. But that like saying that Satmar and Skvere are adversaries. The Taliban and ISIS adhere to the pretty much the same form of  Islamist extremism. Both see Americans as decadent infidels and do not value their lives. That the Taliban condemned the attack doesn’t mean they wouldn’t do the same thing if the circumstances were reversed. They are the same enemy now they have been for the past 20 years. Who - after all - were we fighting there? 

What bothers me most at the moment is the President’s response to this attack. Which went kind of like this: We were attacked. Let’s  get the heck out of there as fast as we can.  

This is America in retreat. I do not recall any time in American history where an attack was met by retreat. This is how the world will see us. It doesn’t matter that he President said he will hunt  down those that did this and punish them. Finding and destroying a small band of terrorists is not going to change anything (and that assumes we will even be able to find them). ISIS is an ideology, same as the Taliban. For every leader or small group of terrorists we destroy, there are plenty more to take their place. You can’t kill an ideology. All you can do is show strength and determination in the face of challenge. That is what we did in Afghanistan for 20 years. And that’s what kept the terrorist at bay.   

What Biden should have done instead of pulling out is what President Obama did when things weren’t going well there. He sent in more troops. That surge took care of things. That was the right thing to do then. And it would have been the right thing to do now. 

Our presence and past determination deterred the Taliban and ISIS from trying anything like that. And gave the Afghan people some freedom. But once the Taliban smelled retreat, things when sideways in a hurry. The Taliban took over with hardly a shot being fired. Shockingly the Afghan army that was trained and equipped by the American army just laid down arms and surrendered. That was followed very quickly by an ISIS suicide bombing.

That being said, I still believe that we should get our people out of there as soon as possible. Every single one of them. For however long it takes. But once we accomplish that we need to do more than hunt down a few ISIS terrorists. How to do that is beyond my paygrade.

However, an example of what I’m talking about would be the following. A special ops force should take down all the Taliban leaders. Not right away. First lull them into a sense of complacency. And then after a while when they least expect it, they should be hunted down and killed. The Taliban is just as much the enemy now as they were before. I do not buy for a minute their faux condemnation of the ISIS attack. They are probably upset they didn’t do something like this themselves a long time ago!

If we don’t do something major like that, then a lot of people died for nothing - and a lot of money was spent for nothing. America will be in decline.  At least that is how the rest of the world will see us. 

If anyone has any better ideas I’d like to hear them.