Afghanistan Debacle 10/28/20

Political thoughts by Richard Bleil

The year was 2001 when the US invaded Afghanistan. After September 11, President George W Bush was enjoying extremely high approval ratings and support based on the standard nationalistic pride that follows strikes against the US. Claiming that Osama Bin Laden, the wealthy middle Eastern terrorist that was blamed for the planning and financing of the 9/11 attack, was in Afghanistan, the US invaded to “extract” this terrorist and bring him to justice.

We weren’t all supportive of the ground offensive. After ending a decade long occupation and war against Russia that ended just twelve years earlier, the Afghan military couldn’t have had any form of sophistication, and about ten percent of us argued that we didn’t need to invade. If they had any air defenses, it would have been trivial for the US to knock them out, send in a small team and simply grab bin Laden if we truly knew where he was. Instead, we initiated a ground war that is continuing today.

After about seven years of George W as president, and eight years of Obama (during which the Republican party unsuccessfully tried to shift the blame for the war to Obama himself), Americans were pretty tired of the war that was promised would be over in a matter of months. Our troops were not welcomed as “liberators”, the war was not over in a matter of months, and the quagmire became worse and worse. Trump has done little that I like or approve, but he does reflect my desire to end these endless wars in which we find ourselves. Modern politicians seem to favor military might over diplomacy, and the results have been disastrous.

Late February 2020, Trump announced a deal signed with the Taliban that was supposed to mark the beginning of the end of the war in Afghanistan. The talks leading to this treaty did not include nor was in endorsed by the Afghanistan government continuing a three-year trend we had already seen in this administration wherein talks with our enemies are favored over allies. The treaty called for exchanges of prisoners of war, and unverifiable and unenforceable promises from the Taliban to draw down violence and continue peace talks. The details of this announcement, at least those for which the public were privy, had many of us concerned as it seemed flimsy. But I will be honest with you; after nineteen years of war, I was hoping I was wrong in my concerns.

Today, news reports show that while the Taliban has stopped attacks on US forces, it has dramatically stepped up its offensive against the Afghan government that the US helped to set up. The US, in turn, has increased its air offensive against the Taliban troops in an effort to prevent them from beginning an offensive to occupy the Afghanistan capital, an increase in sorties that has led the terrorist Taliban forces to complain that the US is not abiding by the agreement. In his usual stubborn manner, and refusal to admit failure, the withdraw of troops from Afghanistan continues in accordance with the president’s executive order to do so.

It’s another example of the US losing influence in the middle east under the politically inexperienced hands of Trump. As Russia continues its spread of influence over the middle East, Trump has continued to withdraw to give them the opportunity to do so. I believe we never should have invaded in the first place, but since we did, I still believe we have a responsibility to clean up the mess we are responsible for creating. Unfortunately, to do so requires a couple of things that we simply do not have. First, it requires diplomacy, something the US has been reticent to do favoring military might instead. Second, it requires the respect of our allies and enemies in the region, both of which we have lost in the protracted war that we initiated.

I believe the only way out of this war, at least with the opportunity of avoiding complete and total collapse of the entire country, is to bring in a neutral third nation, perhaps Australia that has shown an ability to step up in the failing of US leadership when George W Bush walked out of the peace negotiation between North and South Vietnam.

Four years ago, Trump managed to carry the election (not the popular vote but winning the electoral college) by calling out the politics of politics. He argued that we needed representation by somebody who was a Washington outsider, and while many of us argued that the presidency was the wrong level to bring in a novice, many voted for him for that very reason. Unfortunately, we have now seen what happens when the president lacks political experience. I’m not a fan of politics, but I do understand the importance of experience and knowledge in our political leaders. Let’s hope enough voters have learned this lesson as well.

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