Michael Goodwin of the New York Post knows what any intelligent college history major does, Afghanistan is the graveyard of empires.
People got real mad last week at the suggestion that equipment left in Afghanistan could be an intel windfall for the Chinese.
— Balaji Srinivasan (@balajis) September 14, 2021
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Goodwin: The roll call of the dead, the somber silences, the painful memories and bottomless grief. In many ways, the 20th anniversary of 9/11 reflected the annual rituals that have helped a stricken nation endure incomprehensible loss.
But this year is different. For the first time since the United States suffered the deadliest attack on its homeland, no American soldiers are in Afghanistan. Not one. In other circumstances, that could be a glorious fact worth celebrating. Had the nation-building process been successful, we might have left behind an Afghanistan that would not again be a haven for terrorists to attack us.
In hindsight, that was never in the cards. No matter how big a coalition we had, how much we spent and sacrificed, it would never be enough to turn a collection of warring tribes into a modern nation state. For good reason it’s known as the graveyard of empires.
There was another option, however, one that, while not ideal, was good enough to keep the Taliban from taking back power and setting up a jihadist Disneyland. All we had to do was keep a small force in the country and use our superior air power and weaponry to support the Afghan army in its ground operations.
That’s the approach we settled on in recent years and it was successful. Had we kept doing it, we would still have a few thousand special ops soldiers there, but the terrorists would have been kept at bay and on the run, leaving the homeland secure from another attack originating there.
Instead, we have the worst of all possible outcomes. There are no soldiers in Afghanistan not because we won but because we lost. The commander in chief surrendered the gains won over 20 years to the very same Taliban that hosted Usama bin Laden as he plotted and executed 9/11. In its own peculiar way, President Biden’s decision to pull all the troops out, and the sudden, chaotic way he did it, is almost as incomprehensible as the day the Twin Towers fell.
Biden simply decided he no longer wanted a single American there, and rejected every idea put forth by his generals to make the force as small as possible. He wanted them all out at once and was so sloppy he cut NATO allies out of the details. The rush to the exits was hopelessly botched as we left behind American citizens and betrayed many of the Afghans who helped us. The senseless deaths of 13 service members at the Kabul airport underscored the shameful capitulation to the artificial deadline of Aug. 31.
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Biden’s initial plan was actually worse. He wanted the withdrawal deadline to be Sept. 11, so he could turn the 20th anniversary into a victory party. Sensible people who attended or watched the Saturday ceremonies in New York, at the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, would be dumbfounded that anyone would think this was an opportunity to claim political triumph…
Biden thought he knew best, but is learning that the national disdain for protracted conflicts plays second-fiddle to the hatred for humiliating defeat. Voters across the political spectrum broadly disapprove of how he conducted the withdrawal and his presidency has been damaged. Meanwhile, on the 20th anniversary, the Taliban are posing for pictures in our military gear and mocking our troops as they return Afghanistan to the dark ages. And jihadists everywhere are jubilant and inspired.