Editor’s note: The Biden administration’s execution of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan provoked a variety of responses from The Daily Signal’s audience, as illustrated by these examples in the mailbag at [email protected], most of which arrived before news of the loss Thursday of 13 U.S. service members in Kabul.—Ken McIntyre
Dear Daily Signal: While I am largely sympathetic with James Carafano’s point of view that the Obama-Biden foreign policy of appeasement and “cut and run” remains disastrous for this country, I disagree that President Trump was blameless for the imminent Taliban takeover of Afghanistan (“Don’t Blame Trump for Afghanistan’s Collapse. Blame Obama.”).
Carafano writes: “Trump was negotiating with the Taliban, but there was nothing wrong with that. The negotiations were conditions-based, and Trump made clear the Taliban would be held accountable for its actions.”
My view: There was plenty wrong with negotiating with the Taliban without the Afghan government in the room. This delegitimization of the Afghan government sent the Taliban a clear message that the U.S. was pulling out and would not defend this nascent country.
This is not to say that the U.S. should have put up with Afghan corruption and incompetence, but better to work with and improve that over time than to bear witness to the slaughter of thousands of Afghans who thought they were our friends.
Murderers of nonbelievers is what the Taliban has been and will continue to be. Same with Iran’s current regime. You don’t negotiate with these kinds of people. You defeat them soundly, just as we did with the ISIS caliphate in Iraq and, before that, Nazi Germany and imperial Japan.
Where there is evil in the world and outright repression, free democracies have the obligation to work together to convincingly defeat such regimes. Freedom is never free. And when free democracies forget that, their own freedom is at risk.—Barry E. Stern, Virginia
Dear Daily Signal: Carafano’s search for blame is weak and misdirected. The initial blame falls on George W. Bush, who as president gave in to the Dick Cheney/Donald Rumsfeld fantasies of American imperialism and abandoned the original, sensible approach of American support of the Northern Alliance’s war against the Taliban.
Rather than work with and build from Afghanistan’s traditional tribal structures, we imposed an alien, centralized government that was not understood and generally resented outside of Kabul. Rather than elevating village chiefs to govern provinces, for example, Kabul sent strangers to oversee areas they knew nothing about.
Our ignorance and arrogance were mind-boggling. And our military is incompetent at nation building, which should be the job of others. We couldn’t even build an Afghan army in 20 years.—Warren Coats, Bethesda, Md.
Dear Daily Signal: I have a somewhat different take than James Carafano on this fiasco. Many respected analysts have mentioned the pattern, including Vietnam, Iran, Afghanistan, and back to Haiti and Cuba, of the U.S. consistently backing a corrupt strongman, an incompetent, or a combination of the two. Our blind naïveté concerning the local culture and norms has been blamed.
Germany had a bit of history as more or less a democracy; at least it was a Western culture with many cultural and linguistic similarities to the U.S. and U.K. Japan, of course, had none of these. What assured their rebuilding was their utter destruction during World War II, and long-term occupation by U.S. forces.
Yes, they rebuilt themselves industrially, but under our direct and multigenerational military supervision, which is still there. They also had prewar industrial bases from which they could rebuild. Afghanistan had sheep herding, opium cultivation, exactly zero history of anything except tribal infighting, and a long-term history of resisting all foreign, invading cultures, e.g. the U.K., the Soviet Union, and then the U.S.
Added to Carafano’s point about needing a secure border with Pakistan and the massive troop commitment to enforce it, this failure is not surprising. The sad thing is that, in a future generation, we will have learned nothing and yet again will repeat the mistakes.—Paul Levy, Carolina Beach, N.C.
Dear Daily Signal: James Carafano’s article seems to completely ignore that George W. Bush negotiated a withdrawal from Iraq that Barack Obama carried out when he assumed the presidency. The same situation occurred with Donald Trump negotiating a withdrawal with the Taliban in Afghanistan and Joe Biden honoring the agreement.
I find deplorable your attempt to divide American citizens along this fissure, when clearly both Republicans and Democrats supported extracting us from our Middle East quagmire, where there was no end in sight in our support and little chance we were going to rebuild either country in our ideal image.
Take your blinders off and stop trying to assign blame. I would suggest there is plenty of that to go around in all our foreign interventions going back to Vietnam.—Keith Sarpolis
Cutting to the chase, is Barack Obama really the one deserving of the blame? Or, more fundamentally, should it go to the gullible Americans who elected him? Or, how about the lamestream media that contributed to the gullible voters’ gullibility?—Jack Boteler, Seabrook, Texas
Thanks for Carafano’s excellent commentary article. It really puts into perspective the fiasco there. Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it—at a greater cost each time around.—Frank Stodolka
‘Failure Sits Squarely With Generals’
Dear Daily Signal: Although I disagree to the point of contempt for just about every Biden administration decision, executive order, and legislative agenda, I’m not going to be critical of this one (“Fall of Afghanistan Seen as Historic Failure for Biden.”).
Exiting Afghanistan has been set up to be another “fall of Saigon” ever since President Obama’s surge there. The failure I see sits squarely with the generals, who should have known this was coming, since President Trump rightly set it in motion.
They had plenty of time to establish plans that made a priority of protecting and safely extracting translators, support staff, and their families along with ensuring that we leave nothing but obsolete equipment behind to fall into Taliban hands.—Greg Blome, Colorado
Dear Daily Signal: I concur with Jim Carafano in his commentary, “Biden Needs to Admit His Failures on Afghanistan.” I am livid with Biden. This isn’t a “leftist” mess.
Biden, like Trump, rejected the CIA view, but Biden somehow had the support of his generals and Afghanistan’s regime. I sense corruption, with profits for the generals and the military-industrial complex, more graft for the corrupt Afghans, and maybe worse.
I don’t like an inferior man like Biden trying to justify the unjustifiable, as if I’m as dumb as he is.—Robert Burns
The decision to leave Afghanistan without any preparation is indicative of the person who occupies the White House. A sad day for the Afghans and a disgrace for the U.S.—Bob R.
‘Mistruths’ or Lies?
Dear Daily Signal: My first response was not to bother reading retired Lt. Gen. Thomas Spoehr’s commentary, because of the headline (“Biden’s 5 Mistruths on Afghanistan”). Out of respect to a fellow vet, I decided to read on.
It was well thought out, and I appreciated the organization. However, my encouragement is to use straight talk and not Newspeak. A lie is a lie, the truth is the truth. If Spoehr thinks these are “mistruths,” and I do think his list is correct, then call them lies.—Gary Alden, South Carolina
Thanks so much for Tom Spoehr’s article on the debacle in Afghanistan. I am an 80-year-old father of nine, four of whom served in the Army, with 24 grandchildren and four great-grands.
With Spoehr’s Army experience in mind, I am positive beyond any doubt that if the president had said, “We are leaving Afghanistan by this certain date, you generals and admirals give me a detailed plan for evacuating all Americans, loyal Afghan allies, and citizens desiring special visas, plus specialized equipment,” keeping that date top secret, a great plan would have been worked out in detail with the State Department, allies in the region, and so on.
A big piece of that certainly would have been using the Bagram air base, including what to do with 5,000 imprisoned terrorists, POWs, and so on. All Biden had to do was ask, and not listen to leftist politicians.—Charlie Willcox, Mobile, Ala.
I am not and have never been a backer of President Biden. However, I agree 100% with his No. 5 statement listed in Spoehr’s commentary, “Biden’s 5 Mistruths on Afghanistan.”
If the Afghans want their own country with no outsiders, then they should be able to do it. If the Taliban beat them, then our training and money spent is wasted. They are a country made up of tribes and clans. The Islamic religion is mostly responsible for their lack of patriotic fervor for their country.
Britain tried to bring a form of civilization to the country, and they failed. We failed. And I say, “Good riddance.”
We must, however, watch closely. Beware of letting these people into our country. We are asking for trouble.—Shelvy Graybill
I value Tom Spoehr’s article on the U.S. arms captured by the Taliban (“Taliban Fighters Now Well-Equipped for Decades”). It was concise and placed the significance of the shocking loss in the proper perspective.—James Carlyle
Why didn’t we destroy the weapons on our way out?—Bill Wade
‘A Great Moral Failure’
Dear Daily Signal: Jarrett Stepman’s commentary article, “A Crisis of Confidence in Biden,” alludes to a central issue that supersedes the current crisis in Afghanistan in mentioning the “American Crisis” posited by editor and commentator Ben Domenech: The handling of this crisis, along with several others over the past two years, are manifestations of a deeper malady that perhaps in the future will be collectively referred to as the American Crisis.
Many on all points of the political spectrum are legitimately upset over the spectacle of a second Saigon. The failures of the current administration are self-evident as thousands of American citizens may be stranded, military armament and equipment falls into enemy hands, and Afghan citizens who served our interests are barely an afterthought.
It is a great moral failure to spend some 20 years and billions of dollars giving thousands of Afghans, especially women and girls, hope of freedom, self-determination, and a better future, only to see it evaporate as we abandon an entire nation to the iron grip of the Taliban. The entire debacle is an American Crisis playing out on the world stage, for our allies to ponder and for our adversaries to take heart from.
Stepman notes the comparison of Biden’s failure to accept responsibility in the manner of two former presidents, Kennedy and Carter, who owned the mistakes that were made in contrast to the present attitude. Will this crisis generate a serious appraisal of our foreign policy? Of our deep cultural divisions?
When asked Aug. 18 by Fox News Channel’s Bret Baier whether the Afghan crisis would impact Biden’s approval ratings, NPR’s Mara Liasson sagely noted that “Americans have a very short attention span.” God forbid!—Thomas Remein, Italy, N.Y.
Dear Daily Signal: Dennis Prager’s article on the Kabul/Saigon moment was brilliantly put together and perceptive beyond measure (“‘This Is Manifestly Not Saigon’ and Our Society of Lies.”).
I live in Northern Ireland and have watched incredulously at the machinations going on in America over the past few years. It is not only in America that the Society of Lies exists. It exists here as well in the U.K., perhaps not as virulent, but quickly getting worse.
The Book of Revelation comes to mind, but no one on the left would wish to read that enlightening prophecy.
America really seems to be asleep at the wheel, as the vast majority of citizens don’t seem prepared to fight for truth. Life has become too easy, perhaps? I wish you well for the future.—Tim Kyle, Northern Ireland
‘Benghazi on Multiple Steroids’
Dear Daily Signal: This is Benghazi on multiple steroids. Instead of abandoning a few dozen, we are talking thousands of American citizens.
Our generals’ admitting that there was no present plan to recover them? Totally inept.
And telling the press that none of this was or could be anticipated? Totally false. For years this has been predicted.
The country’s takeover by the Taliban has been so swift that there is no doubt that it was preplanned way in advance of our sudden pullout. The worst is yet to come: Bloodshed of our Americans left to the Taliban to maim and murder at will.
Will it be reported? I doubt it. Just too ugly to be seen by proper, upright people. This debacle is shameful.—Ken Jacroux, Columbia, Mo.
Dear Daily Signal: America is a fast-changing nation. Its rapid development is principally due to unregulated competition granted by our Constitution’s license to citizens to use their natural talents to pursue a better life. However, this incentive for individual advancement leads to impatience for stagnant responsibilities.
Our long-term residence in Afghanistan, at great expense and little if any visible improvement in our efforts to protect America by being there, was the popular incentive to move on (as in Vietnam).
What is missing in Americans’ understanding of the Afghanistan situation is that radical Islam’s goal to conquer the world is never ending.
So our goal in Afghanistan must be permanent occupation to keep the terrorists pacified. Remember, they believe Allah is on the side of winners, so we should maintain a winners’ attitude and presence there.—J. Murray Stewart, Toledo, Ohio
Afghans ‘Real Story’
Dear Daily Signal: While President Biden has much to answer for, in my opinion the real story is the Afghan people—people whom Biden conveniently threw under the bus.
Yes, the Afghan army melted away, which many put down to lack of leadership at the Afghan national level and, of course, the attitude of Biden and his administration … and so forth. Also there are stories of remote Afghan soldiers cut off from support, tribal warlords switching sides, lack of air support, you name it.
However, the Afghan army was not crushed militarily on the field of battle. For the most part, it seems to have just vanished. And taking a longer view of the current situation, that may not be a bad thing.
In hindsight, there seem to have been remarkably few civilian casualties during the last few weeks resulting from armed conflict. Hopeless situations involving civilians during the rapid expansion of the Taliban may be one reason that the Afghan army melted away. Certain tribal groups certainly supported the Taliban as they expanded operations, while some remained neutral.
Now we are seeing evidence of a more brutal edge being used by the Taliban to establish authority in more cosmopolitan areas, cities that have grown, changed, and become more sophisticated over time.
So the real story here should be that Afghanistan has changed in the 20 years. Afghans as a people have changed. A link between Afghanistan and the West has been forged in the hearts of many Afghans.
Today it is easy to see the Taliban as occupiers of the Afghan state, rather than part of an Afghan state in which modern Afghan people live freely, albeit somewhat contentiously at times.
The real question now is how things will pan out when the Afghan people figure out and define their role in forming Afghanistan’s future. The Taliban can try to roll back history. But that is not moving forward.—E. Reed, Tucson, Ariz.
Can The Daily Signal do an article discussing what is the right balance in Afghanistan? I’m confused by the mixed messages.
The Trump administration wanted to get out too, correct? What would have been Trump’s plan and how would these alignments between countries and powers be different?
I’m not arguing, I’m just trying to understand. I get that the way Biden left is chaotic and left so many U.S. resources. But on these global issues, how would a Trump exit leave the U.S. in a different position?—Joyce Webb
‘A Disgrace to This Country’
Dear Daily Signal: The Taliban terrorists aren’t going to assimilate into law-abiding Afghan citizens (“4 Keys to What’s Next in Afghanistan as 13 US Service Members Die in Attack”).
The Taliban’s army is made up of murderous psychopaths, who I doubt want to grow crops, work in a supermarket, or do any other job that doesn’t include torture and unthinkable acts of violence. These fighters are brainwashed and know one thing—and that is to kill without mercy or conscience.
President Biden and the embarrassment that he calls an administration is like a 2-year-old child who doesn’t have a clue as to what is going on in the world. In one government update after another, U.S. citizens in Afghanistan fearing for their lives were told that if you want to leave then get to the Kabul airport the best way you can.
There are two things wrong with that. First, to me—a former Marine wounded in combat in Vietnam—that would be like walking in a minefield in the dark with your eyes closed.
Second, if you don’t want to leave, does that mean you are a Taliban sympathizer? Or does it mean that Biden will write you off if you didn’t make it to the airport?
Let there be no mistake, Biden is the most incompetent leader this country has ever seen. He has given a death sentence to all who have not made it to the airport. He is a disgrace to this country and should be removed from office.—Gregory J. Topliff, Warrenville, S.C.
The Daily Signal publishes a variety of perspectives. Nothing written here is to be construed as representing the views of The Heritage Foundation.