Mr. Gary Horton’s latest column (Sept. 1) is a valiant effort to put lipstick on a pig, as one of I sure his favorite politicians used to say. He is having an argument with himself — should we have kept a small presence in Afghanistan as recommended by the military past and present, none of whom have died in the last 18 months. Right or wrong, that dispute has left the barn — we are leaving. I would only like an answer to this question: Has the “forever war” actually ended, or has it morphed into another phase? Has Iran or Syria or Afghanistan abandoned radical Islam or terrorism? If not then the “forever” war goes on, and to think otherwise is dangerous naivete.
So let’s get to the discussion Mr. Horton avoids: Did we handle the withdrawal from Afghanistan appropriately? Clearly the answer is no, we left American citizens behind (the administration’s attempts to obfuscate this issue aside). Just two weeks ago there were 10,000 to 15,000 U.S. citizens in Afghanistan, according to Joe Biden. The Centcom commander said 6,000 were evacuated, leaving anywhere from 600 (Centcom) to about 250 to 100 (Secretary of State Antony Blinken). What happened to the other 4,000 to 9,000? Or are they making up numbers as they go along — like Biden’s promise to leave no citizen behind. We also left thousands of Green Card holders and Afghans who helped us behind.
Biden picked an arbitrary date for withdrawal, a date the Taliban were happy to use for their benefit, and which did nothing more than place unnecessary pressure on us, not the Taliban. They were getting what they wanted, what this administration allowed them to acquire — control of Afghanistan, not only without U.S. pushback, but also with our sudden withdrawal of support for our Afghan allies when we withdrew our troops and contractors, essentially in the dead of night, from Bagram Air Base. This occurred in the face of the Taliban being active and taking over more and more of Afghanistan; killing Afghan soldiers who surrendered and Afghans who worked with us; and reimposing Sharia law on the country, including forcing women and girls to “marry” Taliban fighters and to revert back to the burka and second-class citizenship. Mr. Horton attempts to conceal these facts behind the rubric of “we shall see how the Taliban acts” — anyone who is not willfully blind already knows.
It is not that we lacked the ability to properly withdraw. We lacked the will. This lack of will was clearly demonstrated by Biden continually looking at his watch when attending the return of the servicemen and women who died at the Kabul airport while under his command. He just wanted to get this over with, at whatever cost to American citizens and allies, and he shed our citizens and allies like political allies who have become inconvenient.
It was disgraceful.