In Afghanistan, the worst is yet to come, by Pat Buchanan
Say what you want about President Joe Biden, he has stood his ground in ending 20 years of America’s involvement in the eternal war in Afghanistan.
His decision not to delay our departure after August 31 was reinforced by the information that the terrorist ISIS-K was preparing attacks at the Kabul airport.
On Thursday night the two bombings occurred.
Now it seems inevitable that the withdrawal will be completed on August 31, with all US military forces following the last of the civilians.
Before yesterday’s attacks, the airlift had fared much better than in its chaotic early days. Some 100,000 Americans and Afghans had left the country since Aug. 14.
Biden stood his ground, refusing to be swayed by Democratic critics, NATO allies, Republican hawks, or the media demanding that he extend the deadline for departure until all Americans were out.
His stubbornness testifies to the convictions Biden earned for decades at the top of the US government during our longest war.
Even if the end result of a pullout is for Afghanistan to fall into the hands of the Taliban, the cause is not worth the continued commitment of the United States or the blood and treasure that four presidents have invested.
Better to accept America’s defeat and humiliation than to recommit to a war that will inevitably be lost.
Biden’s decision and the failed first days of the withdrawal have not been without political costs. Polls show the president’s approval rating slipping underwater. A Suffolk poll has reduced it to 41%.
Yet in his basic decision to go out now and accept the costs and consequences, his country seems to be with him. After all, former President Donald Trump was prepared to leave before August 31, and the majority of Americans still support the decision to cancel Afghanistan and leave.
Still, we must realize what this means and what lies ahead.
According to the secretary of state, 6,000 Americans were still in Afghanistan when the Afghan army collapsed and Kabul fell. About 4,500 of these have already been evacuated.
The State Department is in contact with another 500 US citizens to effect their departure. As for the remaining 1,000, we don’t know where they are.
What does this mean?
Hundreds of Americans will be left behind, along with tens of thousands of Afghan allies who worked with our military or contributed to the cause of crushing the Taliban. And many of those Afghans are going to pay the price for casting their lot on the Americans.
After August 31, the fate of those left behind will be determined by the Taliban, and we will witness the fate imposed by the Taliban.
This generation is about to learn what it means to lose a war.
When the war for Algerian independence ended in 1962, and the French withdrew their troops, tens of thousands of “Harkis”, Algerian Arabs and Muslims who fought alongside the French, were left behind.
The atrocities committed against the Harkis amounted to tens of thousands. Such may be the fate of the tens of thousands of Afghans who fought alongside us.
Biden’s diplomats may be negotiating with the Taliban to prevent the war crime of using US citizens as hostages. But we will not be able to save all of our friends and allies who joined us and fought alongside us.
However, while the promises of the Taliban are not credible and should not be believed, we are not without influence.
As The New York Times writes, the Afghan economy is “in free fall.”
“Cash is getting scarcer and food prices are going up. Fuel is getting harder and harder to find. Government services have stalled as public officials avoid work for fear of retaliation. “
The desperate need of the Taliban is for the people to run the international community’s economy and money to pay for food imports and the vital necessities of life.
What will also be needed from us, shortly after the fall of Afghanistan, is a reassessment of America’s commitments throughout the Middle East.
We have 900 American soldiers in Syria who control that country’s oil reserves and serve as a shield for the Syrian Kurds.
How long should we keep them there?
We retain several thousand soldiers in Iraq. Why?
These are questions for which new answers will be needed.
In fact, there will be a temptation to counter our defeat and humiliation with defiant gestures or rush actions to restore our lost credibility. Henry Kissinger’s advice on such action today seems spot on:
“There is no dramatic strategic move available in the immediate future to offset this self-inflicted setback, such as making new formal commitments in other regions. American recklessness would aggravate disappointment among allies, encourage adversaries, and sow confusion among observers. “
As for Afghanistan and the Kabul airport, there comes a time when even a great nation needs to come to terms with the reality that Corregidor is lost.
Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of “The Nixon White House Wars: The Battles That Made and Broken a President and Divided America Forever.”