Susan Estrich: Afghanistan War belongs to all Americans
Summary: Our intelligence failed. Joe Biden, confronted with that failure, made the right decision. We need to be out of there. At least we should all agree on that. And stop playing politics with a disaster that belongs to Bush, Barack Obama and Trump, as well as Biden. Which is to say, it belongs to all of us.
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What is there to say about the disastrous pullout from Kabul? The Taliba n will stop at nothing. There is no respect for human life — not only of our soldiers but also of their fellow citizens.
Thursday's suicide bombing, killing 13
troops and scores of Afghans, only makes that clear.
Meanwhile, misinformation is everywhere, as former President Donald Trump 's defenders try to pin the blame for 20 years of failure on the president who has been in office for a matter of months, not years.
An Instagram post, corrected yesterday, claimed that not a single American soldier died during the last year of the Trump administration. "There wasn't a SINGLE American casualty in Afghanistan the last year and a half of the Trump admin. The Taliban FEARED President Trump and KNEW he would annihilate them, if they breached their peaceful exit negotiation. The blood is on Biden's hands."
Not so. Eleven service members were killed in Afghanistan in 2020. In 2019, 23 service members were killed, 17 of them in combat. Until this week, no service members were killed in 2021.
It was the Trump administration that negotiated the agreement with the Taliban, setting a May 1 deadline for the withdrawal of all American troops. The Biden administration extended that deadline to Aug. 31.
What went wrong? The Taliban managed to take over the country with virtually no resistance. Afghan military forces, after 20 years of support by us, simply collapsed. The Afghan government fell in a matter of days. What might have been an orderly evacuation devolved into chaos.
The scenes at the airport reminded those of us who were old enough of the scenes of helicopters evacuating American forces from Saigon after our failed effort at nation-building. The debunked domino theory held that if we didn't stop the communists in Vietnam, all of Southeast Asia would fall.
President Richard Nixon and his administration held to the domino theory until they didn't. There were massive protests at home. Protesting college students were killed by the National Guard in Ohio, at Kent State. John Kerry , the former senator and presidential candidate, led the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. He was a hero of the antiwar movement. The tide had turned against the war by the time Nixon declared the war over.
American intelligence failed to predict the speed with which the country would fold in the face of the Taliban. In that sense, it was reminiscent of the search for weapons of mass destruction that simply weren't there.
You can blame President George W. Bush for that. But what's the point?
The last thing we need right now is the blame game. There is plenty to go around and very little point to the exercise.
Victory has a thousand mothers and fathers. Defeat is an orphan.
More than 2,400 American troops have been killed in Afghanistan since 2001, when Bush first sent troops in. Billions of dollars have poured in.
What the Afghan government could not do after 20 years of support was not going to change in a matter of months or years. It is simply not fair to ask our soldiers to fight a losing war. They didn't fail in Afghanistan; the Afghans did.
If there is a lesson, it is the one we have learned over and over in the last 50 years. For all of our might, we cannot change the forces inside a country. We cannot win wars when the enemy is within.
Our intelligence failed. Joe Biden , confronted with that failure, made the right decision. We need to be out of there. At least we should all agree on that. And stop playing politics with a disaster that belongs to Bush, Barack Obama and Trump, as well as Biden. Which is to say, it belongs to all of us.
Susan Estrich can be reached at email@example.com.