Afghanistan Falls, Again

By | August 15, 2021 | 0 Comments

Field Marshal Earl Roberts of Kandahar, VC

The British first went into Afghanistan in 1839. The entire force was annihilated except for an army doctor. They went back in 1878 with more success. The officer shown above did well enough to he granted the title of Earl of Kandahar. Nevertheless, fighting along the border with British India continued, inspiring Kipling to pen these lines:

If you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains
And the women come out to cut up what remains
Just roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
And go to your God like a soldier.
                    .

Do you get the idea that invading Afghanistan has not proved to be an easy job? Do you get the sense that even if Afghanistan hardly qualifies as a nation, rather than a collection of tribes, it still evokes enough national feeling to expel foreigners?

The Taliban seized power and allowed Al Qaeda to plan 9/11. So after 9/11, we had no choice but to go in and expel the Taliban. But the situation was best summed up in the superb movie “12 Strong.” The Northern Alliance commander tells an American officer, “If you leave we will call you cowards; if you stay we will call you occupiers.”

So we stayed 20 years, then left precipitously, and they call us both.

Whatever we did, the downside was daunting. Perhaps the best course was to go in, expel the Taliban as we did, stay a few years to give the Afghans a taste of freedom and women’s rights, and then depart, leaving Bagram as a secure air base so we could return if necessary. But this would have left the troops at Bagram as hostages if the base were overrun.

There are some problems that have no good answers, only bad answers and worse answers. This was such a problem. But however long we decided to stay, a precipitous withdrawal could be expected to produce the current debacle, with embassy personnel burning classified documents, burning American flags, and hoping to escape with their skins intact.

Only fools would expect any other outcome. If I were a member of Congress, I would introduce resolutions of impeachment against the President, the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and all other top commanders who either made this disgraceful plan, or remained silent and allowed it to go forward.

They had the debacle of Saigon in 1975 as an example of a humiliating rout. Emulating that terrible example showed either malice or stupidity, neither of which is tolerable in those entrusted to defend us. They had all the blood shed and the amputated limbs to remind them of what Afghanistan cost. To throw it away so carelessly is unforgivable. Some people have long memories.

 

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