Twenty years fighting a war in Afghanistan, and what did we come away with? The head of Osama bin Laden…and we threw that in the ocean.
The start of this war was clear cut. America was attacked by Al Qaeda and we went to Afghanistan to get the people who were responsible. Twenty years and four presidents ago. It took almost ten years to finally kill bin Laden (Mission Accomplished!) but we did it. And then…we didn’t come home. We had pushed out the Taliban and installed a new government, and we tried to train the people to govern themselves and to defend themselves. But the killing never stopped, the government never worked, and the Afghan army was a sad joke. Twenty years later the Taliban is back in charge, and look what we’ve left behind in weapons they now control, even after all the deaths we’ve sustained and the trillions of dollars we spent.
“Tonight’s withdrawal signifies both the end of the military component of the evacuation, but also the end of the nearly 20-year mission that began in Afghanistan shortly after Sept. 11, 2001,” said Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the head of the military’s Central Command. “No words from me could possibly capture the full measure of sacrifices and accomplishments of those who served.”
More than 2,400 U.S. military personnel and nearly 50,000 Afghan civilians died in the 20-year war, in addition to tens of thousands of casualties among U.S. contractors, the Afghan military and national police, insurgents and others, according to the Costs of War Project at Brown University.
The U.S. military succeeded in evacuating more than 120,000 people from Afghanistan in recent weeks, American citizens and others who feared staying under Taliban rule. Quite an achievement, really; unfortunately, there are another few hundred they couldn’t get out before the deadline. Let’s wish them all luck in finally escaping.
I’ve got no issue with why we went to war in Afghanistan, nor with the decision to end the war despite the messy nature of things. I give President Biden credit for closing this down, despite the complaints.
He is under heavy criticism, particularly from Republicans, for his handling of the evacuation. But he said it was inevitable that the final departure from two decades of war, first negotiated with the Taliban for May 1 by former President Donald Trump, would have been difficult with likely violence, no matter when it was planned and conducted.
“To those asking for a third decade of war in Afghanistan, I ask, ‘What is the vital national interest?’” Biden said. He added, “I simply do not believe that the safety and security of America is enhanced by continuing to deploy thousands of American troops and spending billions of dollars in Afghanistan.”
If only our government had learned that lesson ten years ago, after we made good on the real reason we went there in the first place.