The American adventure in Afghanistan is ending, badly. But we always knew it was going to end badly. The far greater share of us wanted the forever war to end. It was like a low-grade, nagging headache, easy to dismiss most of the time but always present even if we decided there was nothing to be done about it. The war may have started nobly (I was a distinct fan), but things went way south maybe 10 minutes after we did not find Osama bin Laden and then began trying to build a modern, western-flavored nation state from the raw clay of a tribe and clan culture that is not even remotely acquainted with or interested in western notions of representative democracy.
There is blame aplenty to go around, and everyone with an opinion on the Afghanistan adventure has his or her favorite target for blame. Some say George Bush should not have expanded the mission from bin Laden hunting to nation building, and should not have taken his eye off the ball by invading Iraq in 2003. Barack Obama should not have surged thousands of additional troops into a cause that he should have known was futile. Donald Trump should not have cut a peace deal with the Taliban in early 2020 and pitched the absurd notion that the Taliban would become a partner in fighting terrorism.
Others blame the military, and the Pentagon more specifically. The general officer corps and the agents of the military industrial complex told our political leaders what they wanted to hear. We are making progress! The Afghan army is standing up! It will take 6 months for Kabul to fall! The foreign policy hawks that permeate Congress ate it up, and the non-hawks did nothing.
Well, Kabul fell in two weeks. Widespread reporting from the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and the Washington Post tells that as soon as President Trump’s 2020 peace deal was signed the Taliban began spraying cash and cutting deals with local Afghan government officials. Everyone knew that America was bugging out, so the locals reverted to their tribe and clan culture to find a local accommodation that would keep the peace and the bloodshed to a minimum. These local accommodations spread all the way up to Kabul, and so the country fell in two weeks with barely a shot fired.
The first day of the evacuation was horrible to see, but since that ugly first day the U.S. military and NATO partners stepped up tremendously. To date approximately 100,000 Afghans and others have been airlifted to safety away from Taliban rule, a remarkable achievement under daunting circumstances.
Just today, a dozen service members were killed in Afghanistan, and another 15 injured.
It was always going to end badly, and so it has. Ultimately it is on us, the American people. For 20 years we allowed a forever war to go on, forever. President Biden has now demonstrated the guts to end it, and good for him. But we the American people allowed this fruitless war to go on, all the while going about our daily business heedless of the blood and sacrifice being done in our name. You want to blame feckless politicians, the deep state, the military industrial complex? Go ahead. But frankly, it is our responsibility in the end.
Darrell M. Allen is a retired employment and criminal defense attorney. He lives with two nice Republican ladies north of I-40, where they run two head each of dog and cat.