By Bob Gaydos
I was born a little more than six months before Japanese planes attacked Pearl Harbor. I hope to still be around at the end of August when the United States military engagement in Afghanistan officially ends. That's 80 years of war, more or less. Mostly more, as it turns out, certainly more than I was aware of.
President Biden's decision to finish the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan begun by Donald Trump supposedly as part of a truce with the Taliban that never materialized is to me both proper and overdue. It will be 20 years since American troops landed in Afghanistan with the mission of rooting out Al-Qaeda, capturing or killing Osama bin Laden and avenging the attacks of 9/11.
That mission was accomplished in the Obama administration and Biden then argued, as Vice President, for a U.S. troop withdrawal. However, he was unsuccessful and the mission morphed into establishing a stable government and defeating the Taliban, two objectives apparently not enough Afghans themselves have been eager to see happen. At some point, and with a history of other nations' failed attempts at "saving Afghanistan" to guide us, it becomes time to say, "Not our country; not our problem."
Harsh, perhaps, but realistic, especially with the U.S. facing a threat to its own government from within. It's time for America to deal with January 6 2021, now that it has settled Sept. 11, 2001.
And, really, does anyone think Afghanistan is winnable? What would that look like? How many more American lives and how much more investment would it take? Let Pakistan take a shot at it. Keep the CIA and embassy troops in the country.
Afghanistan has been called the "forever war." It just seems like it. But the truth is, American troops have been involved in one military conflict or another pretty much forever.
In my lifetime, starting with World War II, the list of military engagements also includes the Korean War, China (repatriation), Vietnam, Lebanon (twice), Grenada, Panama, Somalia (talk about forever), the Gulf War, Bosnia, Haiti, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, the Indian Ocean (pirates!), Libya (twice) Uganda and, still, Syria.
Much of the 21st-century military engagement involves spinoffs of one sort or another of the war on terror. This is obviously a necessary price of defending freedom and democracy and not only at home. But when it results in long-term involvement in a far-off country with no sign of diplomatic progress or 100 percent commitment from local forces, how long does the United States have to stay involved?
"Let me ask those who want us to stay: How many more?" Biden said. "How many thousands more American daughters and sons are you willing to risk? And how long would you have them stay?" More than 2,300 American troops have died in Afghanistan.
Biden is right. It would seem that cyberwarfare is a more serious threat to the American way of life than Afghanistan or whomever Iran is funding in Syria today. Let our intelligence agencies find the terrorist threats and plots to destabilize allies. Our troops will always be ready to help in a moment's notice. But wars need clear missions and expiration dates.
Who's the threat to freedom? Right now, it's easier to identify them right here at home. They're the ones screaming all over social media and Fox "News" to forget about the attack on the U.S. Capitol. That's a war worth fighting.
Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.