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The wrong goodbye?


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Paul Mirengoff

March 3, 2020

I added a question mark to the title of this post about the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan because there is room for reasonable disagreement as to the wisdom of our withdrawal. To answer my own question, though, I think withdrawing is the wrong move.

We have accomplished a lot in Afghanistan. We crushed al Qaeda there and, as John says, we ensured that Afghanistan would no longer be a launching pad for terrorist attacks against the West.

In addition, we drove the Taliban out of power, replacing a barbaric Islamic regime with a functioning civil society that, among other important virtues, relieved woman from bondage and allowed them to flourish. Presently, the Afghan government is said to govern about 50 percent of the country’s population (control of the remainder is either in dispute or in the hands of the Taliban).

One can see that glass as half full or half empty. I see it as half full because before we invaded (and almost certainly after we leave), the Taliban had something much closer to complete control.

These accomplishments have come at a high cost. However, the cost was front-loaded. Today, with our small troop commitment, it isn’t that steep. On average, our forces suffered fewer than 20 deaths per year from 2016-19.


John’s friend — the one with two tours of duty in Afghanistan — is right. If we want to fight terrorists in Afghanistan, we have to be present in Afghanistan with boots on the ground.

The problem is that we have been present for 18 years. Americans don’t just want success in Afghanistan, which we have achieved to a considerable degree. They want victory, which we haven’t delivered despite nearly two decades of trying.

I don’t recall being terribly surprised when, after John advocated withdrawing from Afghanistan in 2011, a clear majority of our readers agreed. If we took a poll today, I suspect that upwards of 90 percent of our readers would back withdrawal. If a hard-left website took a poll, support for withdrawing might well be even higher.



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Admiral James Stavridis (USN Ret.) On Status Of U.S.-Afghanistan Withdrawal Agreement

Hugh Hewitt

Mar.4 2020



HH: We’ve got a race, a two-person race that’s going to go all the way to Milwaukee, and we’ll have plenty of time to talk about that. But the Taliban deal with the United States is fresh, top of mind. Jennifer Griffin reporting two minutes ago for the Fox News Channel that the Taliban have carried out at least 76 attacks across 24 Afghan provinces since the withdrawal deal signed Saturday. The U.S. conducted its first airstrike against Taliban on Wednesday after an 11-day lull. What do you think of the deal as of today, Admiral Stav?

JS: It’s shaky, and I think all of us thought it would be very, very bumpy. I think I said at the height of the optimism, which was a couple of days ago, that there might be a 50% chance that the deal holds together. You’ve got to knock that back a bit. I’ve also seen reports, Hugh, that the President has spoken with the lead Taliban negotiator. I think obviously the White House correctly wants to hold this deal together. It’s going to be very challenging just because of facts on the ground. And having commanded that mission for four years during a period of time where we had 150,000 U.S. troops there, there is still a piece of good news to observe here, which is that we only, and I put that in quotations, but we only have 13,000 troops there. So we’ve withdrawn 90% of our troops. And the Afghan security forces are doing a reasonably good job with our support financially, trainers, intelligence, logistics, of fighting the Taliban. So I think part of why the Taliban are continuing to attack the Afghan security forces, which is where they’re confining those attacks at least thus far, there have been no direct attacks against U.S. personnel or facilities. The Taliban are trying to create leverage going into these, hopefully, into these talks with the Afghan government. So it’s going to be a very bumpy road. I think there’s still a chance. I’m probably down somewhere to one in three about whether this deal can come together or not, but that’s better than no deal, because I’ll close with if there’s no political, if there’s no military solution here, we’re going to have to negotiate something to get out of this.


HH: Now in terms of the persons that used to have crosshairs on them, what does victory look like to them? You know, I always try and understand what does the other side think victory looks like. Can they take a Kabul under the control of the existing, do they just want Kandahar and the provinces of the south? Will they settle for that?

JS: No. They want to return to a Sharia law. And that’s really the collision that’s going to be very difficult to negotiate. In the end, I don’t think the Taliban are going to simply be satisfied with a third of the seats in the Loya Jirga, their version of a parliament. I think that the Taliban want to see a nationwide Islamic state with a Sharia law attached to it. There may be a way to negotiate that, but here again, one of the real sticking points is going to be the rights of women, human rights, the universities, universal schooling. All of those are enormous gains that have been achieved over the 19 years. And I am very concerned that part of that may have to go away. So the Taliban, to directly answer the question, they want control of the government. They’re willing to have, I think, a democratic-like entity, but they want, they want control. They think they have popular backing. I don’t think they do. I think that in anything remotely resembling a real democracy, the Taliban will not be able to control a government, at which time they will probably lean back toward recreating the insurgency. So it’s not a bright future.


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