President Joe Biden had been optimistic when he declared, “I trust the capacity of the Afghan military” just a few weeks before the Taliban, in a stunning move, took control of Kabul; thus, ending the Afghan government’s reign. As a result, the 20-year Afghan war had come to an abrupt end, humiliating the US military in its worst retreat since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975.
On August 4, State Department spokesman Ned Price said, asked by a reporter if the Taliban was operating with impunity: “They absolutely don’t, for a couple of reasons,” Price said. “It’s a simple fact that the Afghan Security Forces are numerically far superior to the Taliban. They have over 300,000 troops. They have an Air Force. They have Special Forces. They have heavy equipment. The Taliban, in contrast, have less than 100,000 forces.”
But what he failed to mention is that the Afghan military doesn’t have the willpower to fight without the support of the US military. As soon as Biden announced the withdrawal of US forces, provincial capitals were abandoned one by one and the Afghan rebels took over them, almost without resistance. Eleven days later, Afghan rebels surrounded Kabul and the Afghan president fled the country.
Biden should have heeded the late General Douglas MacArthur who once told then president Harry Truman, “It is fatal to enter a war without the will to win it” and “In war there is no substitute for victory.” Evidently, Biden had committed Truman’s mistake: He didn’t have the will to win and he believed that victory could be achieved without winning the war. MacArthur earned his five stars all by winning wars.
Biden’s decision to withdraw all US troops from Afghanistan was rebuffed by his generals, who feared it could undermine the country’s security. But they couldn’t do anything. He was their boss. He should have listened to them who had recommended retaining the current force of 2,500 troops while stepping up diplomacy to try to cement a peace agreement.
End war by 9/11
Biden was determined to bring America’s longest-running war to end by Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of 9/11. Instead what happened was that the 20 years that the U.S. had invested at a cost of 2,300 American lives and $2 trillion are now totally wasted. All because of Biden’s bullheadedness and dream of becoming America’s hero who saved American lives and ended the war in Afghanistan. Now, he faces the prospect of becoming America’s “bad guy” who’ll be remembered for a long time as the one who lost Afghanistan to the Taliban.
Graveyard of empires
At this point nobody knows how the Taliban will rule over the country. But knowing how they ruled before, it would not be surprising to see fratricidal bloodshed in the coming months, which could lead to another civil war just like the civil war of 1992-1996, which ended when the Taliban took Kabul.
With the Taliban’s return to power, there had been fears of street-to-street fighting, which is reminiscent of the bloody civil war that ripped the country apart in the 1990s and reduced Kabul to ruins.
With the bloodless seizure of Kabul, Afghanistan enters a new era sans American presence and the Russians before that. With Afghanistan’s colonial past that began when Persia ruled over it before Alexander the Great conquered it in 330 BC, Bactria as it was known then had been invaded by Persians, Greeks, Arab Caliphate, Mongols, Sikhs, British, the Soviets, and the Americans. It has come to be known as the “graveyard of empires.” But the fact of the matter is Afghanistan had never been conquered. Its people remained defiant to every empire that invaded it. The country is a tapestry of tribes with loyalty to no country. The Afghan people retained their tribal loyalties, which made the country hard to rule.
Biden’s ignominious act of quick withdrawal defined his presidency as one that translates to defeat and isolation. Defeated and isolated, Biden joins the few American leaders who dreamed of immortality but failed miserably because they saw themselves as mortals who fear failure. He should have studied Alexander the Great, that fearless leader who died at the age of 33 but achieved immortality as one of the greatest leaders in the annals of world history. But Biden is no Alexander.
Butt of jokes
And now, Biden has become the butt of jokes, never to reclaim the respect given to those who fought heroically to earn the ultimate honor of true leadership. When he announced his withdrawal plan last August 13, Democrats and Republicans praised him for his vision of ending America’s 20-year involvement in Afghanistan’s bloody war. But as soon as the Taliban conquered Kabul and the rest of the country in 11 days without bloodshed, praises turned into criticisms. Immediately, he went into seclusion at Camp David, and started wondering what the hell did he do wrong?
Well, Mr. President, it’s not why you ordered the withdrawal? It’s how you ordered it. Evidently, your inexperience in the conduct of war was the root of your problems. Had you listened to your generals, you could have avoided the embarrassment you suffered as a result.
When he ordered the U.S. troops to go home hastily, leaving Kabul in a state of disarray, he had basically abandoned the country at the mercy of the Taliban whose despotic rule in the past had dealt the Afghan people harsh treatment and punishment. He should have phased the withdrawal and left troops behind to make sure that the transition would be done in an orderly fashion. Instead what happened was pure chaos and carnage.
Meanwhile, it was reported that the U.S. military has airlifted out of Afghanistan some 7,000 people since August 14 as the Taliban appears to be cooperating with evacuation efforts from Kabul airport.
At the end of the day, Biden knows that withdrawing troops prematurely would lead to a power vacuum. And who would fill the vacuum? It’s reminiscent of the American withdrawal from Saigon in 1975. It’s history repeating itself.