To me, the question about Afghanistan is a question what the role of the United States should be around the world, and I've been somewhat struggling with that answer for the last week. I personally don't think that we should have entered Afghanistan in the first place. I also feel that we should have never engaged in nation building exercises.
However, we cannot change those past decisions, and in 2020, we were in a place where we failed in creating a state that can stand on its own, but succeeded in creating a state that has a much better record on human rights than the one we replaced. This brought us to a place where continued occupation of Afghanistan was manageable. Yearly deaths were low, and costs were fairly sustainable - $2trillion over twenty years really isn't that much money for the US, and those costs were likely frontloaded.
So what benefit do we get from pulling out? Not much. We avoid a few casualties and save a little bit of money, but this cost isn't overly burdensome.
What would we have gained from staying in? We would have upheld the human rights for millions of people and ensured the conditions upon the agreement that were made would be upheld.
But I still find myself supporting a withdrawal. To me, I find the initial condition of our occupation so untenable, that I feel we simply cannot justify continued occupation.
I agree with you when you state that Afghanistan doesn't want Taliban occupation. I also agree when you state that criticisms of Afghani soldiers are overstated. The failures with the military largely rest with the leaders, not the soldiers. But I'm not sure if this changes anything, because it isn't what the fundamental question is about.
That said, I do agree that the withdrawal has been fairly disastrous. It started with the Trump deal which presupposed the Taliban taking over, but it was also a failure on Biden's part. I do sympathize with how shitty his options were - If we break the deal, we undoubtedly would have to engage in more fighting. If we uphold it, the nation will inevitably fall - but even considering that, the withdrawal was not well orchestrated (it is more complicated than a lot of people are making it out to be though). I think under different circumstances, we likely could have pulled out in a much more organized fashion, which simultaneously would give the Afghani government a better chance, but their fall was likely inevitable.
Look, I get people's hard feelings. Islam, frankly, is a horrible religion. It really is. But that doesn't mean there exists no nuance. I just can't shake fundamentally being a populist by nature and fundamentally having faith in the basic goodness (at least in the sense of good intentions) of most people. Like I pointed out, most Afghans have fundamentally liked us and liked their democratic government despite all its corruption and flaws. They fought and died for it in numbers that make our investment pale in comparison. I fear that one outcome of this debacle we're seeing is that Americans aren't appreciating that reality. They're responding by starting to stereotype Afghans as being like all Taliban sympathizers and the very worst of monsters. I just don't feel that way. I know the Afghan people, for all of their agrarian xenophobia and shortcomings, are better than that, that they haven't wanted this outcome, that they're better than this image. Afghans are more than just conservative Islam. When I see those images of Afghan people chasing down our planes or the photos from yesterday's suicide bombing (which mainly killed Afghan civilians, it may be worth remembering), my heart is filled with compassion! It makes me want to cry. We have to help them! We have to do something. We can't just leave them at the mercy of these wolves. That's just the way I feel. Offering some of them asylum just doesn't feel like enough to me.
As to this notion that we're saving lives by opting to completely pull out of Afghanistan, as you can see from recent events, we have saved no one's life here. Yesterday was the deadliest day in a decade for American troops in Afghanistan thanks to their Islamic State affiliate that has been greatly empowered by the current chaotic situation and by the fact that thousands of their fighters and leaders have recently been freed by the Taliban as they swept across the country and emptied its prisons. The toll from that one attack alone so far stands at at least 170 people dead (including 13 Americans) and some 200 more injured (including 18 Americans). The ultimate consequence of our total withdrawal will likely be similar to what happened after we withdrew even our non-combat troops from Iraq in late 2011 because the Iraqi government wouldn't grant them total immunity from local laws: the Islamic State will start seizing more and more territory and attacking other countries (like us). We only solved that problem before by organizing an alliance against them and sending a bunch of special forces of our own back into Iraq.
The Taliban says they won't harbor terrorists. They also claim that there's no evidence Osama bin Laden was responsible for the 9/11 attacks to this very day. They claim they and the Islamic State are enemies. They also just freed thousands of their fighters and leaders all across the country. They furthermore claim they have never oppressed women before. They are liars. Afghanistan is absolutely about to become a breeding ground for international terrorism the same as it was the last time the Taliban ran the country, and that WILL come back to haunt us. We might think we are done with Afghanistan, but the question is whether Afghanistan is done with us.
Perhaps even more pointedly, the overwhelming majority of American military deaths don't result from combat situations, but from suicide. This right here strikes me as just the kind of development that will likely cause depression and suicide in the ranks and among our veterans to spike. We have saved no one's life here. There is nothing noble or redeeming and liberating for the people of Afghanistan about our decision to tuck tail and run and leave them to these monsters they hate. This is quite possibly the single worst, dumbest, most cowardly, and frankly most evil thing President Biden has done in the course of his presidency so far. I can't believe the White House is seriously considering recognizing the Taliban's government.
There is another way. Panjshir Valley is currently a bastion of resistance to the Taliban, much as it always has been, and claims to have 20,000 soldiers ready to fight, but it is now endangered, as the Taliban is blocking crucial supply lines into the region. Based on their long history of fighting the Taliban, it's unlikely they will ever surrender. The Taliban will have to crush them. The stated goals of Panjshir Valley's National Resistance Front are, in their words, "decentralization of power and wealth, democracy, political and cultural pluralism, moderate Islam, and equal rights and freedom for all citizens", and they're imploring us to help them. That is exactly what we should do! Given their situation, time is of the essence here! We should promptly recognize the government in Panjshir Valley as the legitimate government of Afghanistan and provide much-needed humanitarian and military assistance to their fight in the same sort of way that we aided the Kurds in Northern Syria (only we shouldn't sell them out at the earliest convenience like we did the Kurds in the end). I mean it just seems like a far better path than legitimizing the Taliban's government with official recognition like we're apparently seriously considering doing! That's the path I'm in favor of.
Last edited by Jaicee - on 28 August 2021