President Biden and I almost never agree, but his decision to leave Afghanistan was the right decision and long overdue.
Nation building in Afghanistan, a seventh-century tribal society, was always a fool’s errand.
John F. Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction (SIGAR), has documented a consistently depressing analysis of our occupation, best summarized by his statement that “the end of the U.S. supply chain is the Taliban.” The reports of SIGAR, required since the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act, are available at www.sigar.mil
Particularly noteworthy is his final report, “What We Need to Learn: Lessons from Twenty Years of Afghanistan Reconstruction.” In 2014, SIGAR also interviewed more than 600 people, including numerous generals, ambassadors and White House officials who, as the SIGAR acknowledged to The Washington Post, show that “the American people have constantly been lied to.” (More information is available by searching The Afghanistan Papers, which link to The Washington Post’s “At War with the Truth” and “Responses from People Featured in the Afghanistan Papers.”)
That said, our departure from Afghanistan — an entirely separate issue — has been an unqualified disaster.
President Biden’s entire team has failed miserably. Equally out of his depth is the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, whom President Trump appointed (unsurprisingly rumored to be on the recommendation of Sen. Lindsey Graham).
Beyond the cost in lives, wounded, standing in the world and money wasted, our obsession with the Middle East has been at the expense of our nation’s defenses.
During the last 20 years, the Russians have, for example, expanded their advantages in anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems and developed a number of hypersonic weapons we can’t match or counter.
The Chinese Navy is now the largest in the world and growing fast. We still have the advantage in some areas, but our fleet is shrinking as we retire aging ships faster than we build replacements.
Excepting perhaps our first year in Afghanistan, invading and occupying Iraq and Afghanistan and accomplishing nothing that hasn’t been counterproductive has been described as the greatest strategic failure in U.S. history.
President Biden now needs to get us out of Iraq as well.
(This writer is a retired U.S. Army Reserve colonel and graduate of the U.S. Army War College.)