1) Ryan Crocker
Ryan Crocker, “Was Pulling Out of Afghanistan a Mistake?” in “Afghanistan Under the Taliban,” Carnegie Emdpwment for International Peace, August 18, 2021.
Was Pulling Out of Afghanistan a Mistake?
This was a mistake the United States will pay for in the years to come. Two decades after 9/11, a status quo had taken hold. The Taliban insurgency was alive and well, but Afghan security forces were holding their own with a steadily diminishing number of U.S. and NATO troops. Then Washington ran out of strategic patience. A year after proclaiming that the U.S. presence in Afghanistan was based on conditions, not calendars, former president Donald Trump authorized direct U.S.-Taliban talks without the Afghan government present. This met a long-standing Taliban condition: readiness to talk to the Americans, but not with their puppets in Kabul. I said at the time that these talks were about American capitulation, not peace. And that is what they turned out to be. The indelible image of this catastrophic U.S. failure will be that U.S. Air Force C-17 plane taxiing for takeoff from Kabul surrounded by an Afghan mob desperate to get out of the country. The damage to U.S. national security and America’s reputation will be considerable. The United States has emboldened Islamic radicals everywhere as the Taliban produce a narrative of righteous believers defeating the infidels on the field of battle. The Taliban are back in control, and they will bring their al-Qaeda allies with them. This is not a hypothetical security threat. These are the groups that brought about 9/11, and they have not become kinder and gentler in the interim. At the same time, wholesale withdrawal will degrade U.S. intelligence capabilities, making it more difficult to identify emerging threats.
The United States has also placed those who have already risked their lives to support U.S. efforts in even greater danger. These potential recipients of Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) will have to make their way to the airport through Taliban checkpoints. For those outside of Kabul, the danger is far greater. Afghan women and girls have been put at risk too. From the beginning, U.S. officials urged them to step forward. To pursue education. To run for office, establish businesses, and join the military. They did so, with the assurance that the Americans had their backs. Until we didn’t. They will pay a steep price for Washington’s lack of strategic patience.
It did not have to happen this way. There was a working and sustainable status quo. Driven by impatience, Trump initiated a policy to withdraw completely from Afghanistan, which U.S. President Joe Biden embraced with the results seen today. Biden accepts no responsibility for any aspect of how this withdrawal has been managed, instead blaming the Afghan government and security forces. When I was ambassador in 2011 and 2012, each week there was a solemn ceremony at the NATO-led military mission headquarters in which the names of those killed in action were read. The last to speak was always an Afghan officer. He did not read names. He simply said a number: 142. Or 137. Or 153. The number of fatalities that week. For the U.S. president to blame Afghan security forces for failing to fight after the sacrifices they have made and after he joined Trump in a calculated effort to delegitimize them is beneath Khalsa Rahman dignity of his office.
2) David Petraeus
Khalsa Rahman, “Gen. David Petraeus Says Afghanistan Collapse ‘Catastrophic’ for U.S., Newsweek, August 15, 2021.
to be continued
The Trenchant Observer