The author, a former assistant secretary of defense, has led the U.S. military unit in Afghanistan
We arrived in the dark. My platoon first deployed to Kuwait in the confusing weeks after the 9/11 attacks, and we did not set foot in Afghanistan until March of the following year. We slept on the cool concrete floor of the half-demolished building that first night. When we woke up, the first thing that struck us was the boundless beauty of the Hindu Kush mountains.
Afghanistan, people often forget, enjoyed a relatively lucky century before the Soviets invaded in 1979-1999. That wasn’t the case when we arrived in 2001. And, just as Afghanistan fought the war two decades before our arrival, it is safe to predict that the war will continue after the war. Withdrawal of all U.S. troops By September the Afghans – many of whom fought us, many of whom fought against us, all of whom suffered casualties – will continue their war.
About 800,000 Americans fought in Afghanistan, but most of us saw the war in the first decade. To many, the current conflict thus seems far-fetched. I was working from home in Texas when I heard the news that President Joe Biden was about to end America’s involvement.
Although our 786-year-old president was seen walking into the grave in Section0 paragraph at Arlington National Cemetery. When I lived in Washington, I would take every family there to commemorate the death of a friend who was killed in 2006 in Afghanistan’s Kunar province. Now the president has walked through those same places. “Look at all of them,” Biden told reporters accompanying him. “See them all.”
A deeply decent man, Biden never forgot that young men and women carry the decisions of their elders. During the second term of the Obama administration, I spent a week traveling with the then vice president in my capacity as a senior Middle East policy officer at the Pentagon. Every morning, I called my office and asked if Americans had lost their lives in the war any night. Biden always carried a card with the perfect number of Americans killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. I knew he could ask me for the latest image, and I didn’t want to make it wrong. You knew he took all those lives he lost personally.
In the days when the administration was exhausted, I asked a colleague with the responsibility of coordinating our policy towards Afghanistan why we were there. He sighed and said to me, “Because the unknown risks of staying have exceeded the known risks.” As difficult as it is to prove negative in policy-making, as elsewhere: was it our small remnant to prevent another major terrorist attack in the United States?
It is fashionable to blame the strong optimism of our military leaders for the long-running tensions over our war in Afghanistan. And the “progress” of the war, which, given year after year by the commander-in-chief, has been given an overly rosy assessment, I realize that anger and frustration have been imposed on them, by the young and the old, and by others.
Military officials, however, do not start or end the war in the United States; Elected civilian leaders do. Biden’s two immediate predecessors – one Democrat and the other Republican – both lost faith in the war, but neither was brave enough to accept the risks involved in ending the war. Biden deserves some credit for doing this.
Yet 12 years after Obama announced the deployment of the first troops to Afghanistan, the risk calculus has changed – something that I and many others have supported. Today, with 2001, most Americans attack remote memory and more 500,000 died From an epidemic at home, the still unknown risks of withdrawal make them seem less frightening than they once were. Huge expenditure of resources – about 45 45 billion a year, According to a Pentagon estimate – A landless Central Asian country seems to be much more indifferent.
Voices of dissent, on the other hand, are much quieter than they were a decade ago. Not after Trump, whose skepticism about the war was vocal – there are no anti-war constituencies on either side. What Biden is doing these days, as it stands, is that Afghanistan’s decision will remain popular until the end of the epidemic or the cost of infrastructure: based on recent surveys, most likely will support him.
Withdrawal is not without risk. It will be harder to continue training Afghan troops and more difficult to conduct special operations there. But the president’s team will feel that these risks can be reduced.
It is difficult for Afghans to reduce the risk themselves: Biden’s announcement will encourage the Taliban and the Afghan government to defend itself in any way, including indiscriminate airstrikes. According to one estimate, 3,800 Afghan civilians died in these in 2018 alone.
As our elders, we have left the memory of a fierce fighting conflict where we have won very little but lost a lot. Most of us, I suppose, don’t often think about war. A few weeks ago, though, my son pulled a tan from the bookshelf and asked if it was mine. I said. And then the memory comes back. But like war, they will fade over time.