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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 8/20/21

Where Did We Go So Wrong In Afghanistan?

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Alon Ben-Meir
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From Alon Ben-Meir Website

President Biden's decision to finally withdraw US forces from Afghanistan was the correct decision and certainly overdue. However, the lack of preparation to do so orderly and safely was yet another terrible mistake in a string of mistakes that have plagued the US from day one.

Joe Biden
Joe Biden
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Righting the Wrong

In his address to the nation last Monday, President Biden used the majority of it to try to justify the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, which needed hardly any justification given that after 20 years the US has not come any closer to defeating the Taliban permanently. The vast majority of the American people supported his decision when he first announced his intention to end the war based on the agreement concluded between Trump and the Taliban last February. Biden's decision to withdraw was certainly the right one and was overdue by 19 years. His determination not pass the war onto a fifth president was wise, as it would spare the country from continuing to invest blood and treasure in an unwinnable war.

The problem was not the need to withdraw, but the manner in which it was conducted. Why on earth did he begin to pull out troops without the proper preparation to ensure that US and other foreign diplomats and civilians, along with thousands of Afghan interpreters and other support staff and their families, departed orderly and safely?

To subsequently dispatch thousands of troops to secure the airport to ensure safe passage for the departees was certainly necessary. But this happened only following the chaos that swept Kabul and sent shivers down the spines of tens of thousands of Afghans and foreign diplomats and civilians. As I see it, this last sorry chapter is continuing a string of mistakes committed by Biden's predecessors Bush, Obama, and Trump. They have learned nothing about the nature of Afghan society nor from the Soviet Union's experience in the 1980s, when it departed Afghanistan after ten years of fighting with its tail between its legs.

Miscalculation from the onset

Following the defeat of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in less than a year, former President Bush rushed to invade Iraq in 2003 through the concerted effort of his Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney. He failed to make any arrangement with the then-transitional government led by Hamid Karzai over the prospect of continuing Taliban resistance. He lost focus on the unfinished Afghanistan campaign and subjected American troops to an uncertain future, as neither he nor his military brass had any plans as to how to conclude the campaign once the main objective of removing the Taliban from power was accomplished.

Imposition of democracy

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Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies. His dedication to writing about, analyzing, and (more...)
 

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