For nearly as long as I can remember, my country, the United States of America, has been at war. For nearly my entire lifetime at least one section of the news on a near nightly basis has been dedicated to coverage of our forever war in Afghanistan. Afghanistan was rightly invaded in 2001, in the aftermath of the attacks on our soil during the tragedy of September 11, 2001. The mission was clear, and the entire nation and world rallied around the cause of bringing the perpetrators of the highest-casualty terrorist event in American History to justice.
The ringleader Osama bin Laden was nowhere to be found, however, and the United States stayed to hunt down the menace that was the head of Al-Qaeda, however long it took. It took nearly 10 years to track down and kill Osama bin Laden when was killed in a successful mission by SEAL Team Six in Abbottabad, Pakistan on May 2, 2011. No matter what a person has done, it is distasteful to root for their demise, but when that news rippled out into the general public, it felt like the entire world could finally exhale knowing that the criminal mastermind fugitive that was on the run for 10 years had finally been brought to some semblance of justice. Broadly speaking, all those are things are generally regarded as both understandable and justified in the wake of September 11th.
The issue however, when one considers that Bin Laden was killed just over ten years ago, is that the United States only recently decided to pull its forces out of Afghanistan. If one pulls out a history book it will be seen that Afghanistan has tended to be a financial and human black hole that great nations have not been able to resist or conquer – they become bogged down there on their path to decline. There is a serious argument to be made that the United States’ reputation in the wake of our twin forever wars in Afghanistan and Iraq suffered semi-permanent damage, at least for the next few generations.
Nevertheless, the withdrawal announced by President Joe Biden might also be as irresponsible as simply keeping the U.S. military in Afghanistan is. He is in a classic Catch 22. With the U.S. announcement that we are withdrawing our military presence from Afghanistan, we have ceded the country back to the Taliban and left women, children, the elderly, and all those Afghans who put their lives on the line to assist our military men and women in danger. As clumsy as our Invasion has been for the vast majority of its duration, the withdrawal is shaping up to be the messiest part of all.
President Biden is correct that America cannot fight a war that could go on indefinitely – we spent too much money and lost too much blood in Afghanistan – but to deny that the Taliban won’t inevitably (as they are currently doing) take back the entire country is both delusional and dangerous.
We have decimated Afghanistan and Iraq – the least that we can do is to do a little bit more planning as we smash our way out the door. We owe the innocent civilians of those nations that much.