Leaving Afghanistan after two decades

“It’s hard to deny the evidence in front of you.” – General Mike Mullen

AfghanistanI wrote what I thought about the US leaving Afghanistan back in May. But if I noted what I felt about the country ENTERING the war, I don’t recall. I thought it was…inevitable. If it had been tied to the limited mission of capturing Bin Laden and his accomplices, that’d be “reasonable.”

Here’s the really weird thing about our totally unnecessary war in Iraq – which I’ve documented often in this blog – including here and here and here and a bunch of other places. When we entered the Iraq war, it was as though it slipped the collective minds that we were in Afghanistan.

I’m not just talking about the American people. The US government under W was sharing its assessment of its “success” in Iraq but saying relatively little about Afghanistan. Did they… forget?

Anyway, I was going to write something more about the end game in Afghanistan, but all I could find was a quote from the movie The Princess Bride: “You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous of which is ‘never get involved in a land war in Asia.'”

And a quote that Mark Evanier cited: “A friend of mine spent several years in Afghanistan working as a doctor attached to the U.S. forces. He told me some pretty harrowing tales about his tour o’ duty here but the thing I remember most is when he said, ‘Staying there is a disaster. Leaving there would be a disaster. Nothing about the country is not a disaster.’ I think that’s proving to be the case.”

I agree with much of is linked to here, even when they occasionally contradict each other.


Bloomberg: Why Both Russians and Americans Got Nowhere in Afghanistan. If you’re not going anywhere no matter what happens, or what price you’re forced to pay, you can outlast superpowers. (You may recall that the US and other Western countries boycotted the Moscow Olympics in 1980 because of the Soviet incursion.) On one of the news programs recently, a general suggested that American hubris was the reason the US thought it would succeed when the USSR failed.

Alan Singer in Daily Kos: “Nation Building” Fails in Afghanistan

Nation of Change: Why did a military superpower fail in Afghanistan? This external approach, based on military occupation, to promote democracy in occupied foreign countries was “doomed to fail.”

Daniel Larison: Biden’s Prudent Decision to Withdraw from Afghanistan. It doesn’t say much for our political culture that it takes far more political courage to end a pointless war than it does to start one.

Matthew Yglesias. Biden (and Trump) did the right thing on Afghanistan
The war was lost long ago — if it was ever winnable.

Fred Kaplan of Slate: Trump’s New Big Lie: Afghanistan. Biden has handled the withdrawal very badly. That doesn’t mean Trump would have done better.

Seth Meyers

The “liberal press”?

Weekly Sift: Afghanistan, Biden, and the Media. “What struck me about that discussion, though, was how one-sided it was. Even ordinarily liberal MSNBC shows, or newspaper outlets like the Times and the Post, were unified in their denunciation of the Biden administration and its plan to withdraw our troops. I haven’t seen that level of unanimity since the post-911 era, when the Iraq and Afghanistan wars started. A lot of bad ideas sneaked into the discussion around that time, and didn’t get criticized because there was no room for criticism.”

Fred Kaplan in Slate: A Top U.S. Military Officer Finally Admits He Was Wrong About Afghanistan

The Atlantic: What I Learned While Eavesdropping on the Taliban

Cartoon: Leaving Afghanistan.

Foreign Policy: Two Talibans Are Competing for Afghanistan. The gap between the group’s international leadership and its rank-and-file fighters has never been wider. (This is why the messaging about Taliban 2.0 seems inconsistent.)

Afar: The Organizations Aiding Afghans and How Americans Can Help

Withdrawal from Afghanistan

forever war

AfghanistanThe Weekly Sift looked at both sides of the debate regarding the planned US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021.

“Pro: Leaving saves American lives and resources and gives our military more flexibility to confront challenges more central to our well-being… Con: Without us, the Afghan government will probably fall to the Taliban…

“But one argument has been conspicuous by its absence: If we stay for six more months, or a year, or three years, Afghan democracy will stabilize, the Afghan Army will finally have enough training, and the government we leave behind in Kabul will be able to sustain itself.”

He is siding with Joe Biden on this. “Whatever our original intentions might have been, by now, it’s clear that we’re not building a secular, democratic, pro-Western government that will someday be strong enough to stand on its own.

“There’s a lesson here, and it’s the same lesson we should have learned from Vietnam: To install a new form of government in a country, people on the ground have to be buying what you’re selling.”

For two decades, part of the rationale for the “forever war” was so that the 2300 US soldiers who died in Afganistan will not have “died in vain.”

“Over the last two decades, hundreds of thousands of American troops have served in Afghanistan — most of them honorably and some heroically. It is a shame that their effort and sacrifice have not produced a lasting result that our nation can point to with pride. But more effort and sacrifice will not redeem what bad policy has already wasted. We need to leave.”


Chris Hedges in Common Dreams is harsher. He calls it The Collapse of the American Empire. “War…when, as in Afghanistan, there is no vision at all, descends into a quagmire.”

I remember quite well when the war in Afghanistan began. My wife and I, reeling from 9/11 and the constant news about the same, ended up at a bed-and-breakfast in Cherry Valley, about an hour west of Albany, in early October.

The best thing about planning the trip was that there was no television. We’d be news-free! This turned out not to be the case. A radio from an adjoining room blared the news of the start of the Afghanistan war. I knew it was coming, and I even understood the limited intention to root out bin Laden and al-Qaeda from that country.

Then, the Afghanistan war seemed almost forgotten for a time as the US launched into battle in Iraq, complete with a bogus rationale.

Nine years after bin Laden’s death, in Pakistan, no less, and with no US troop deaths in the past year or so, it’s time to move on. Whether we ACTUALLY do that is subject to the interpretation of what “leave” means.

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