Comment on U.S. Withdrawal from Afghanistan from Seasoned Experts


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

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James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.