More Of This To Come

Afghan school girls were targeted in a weekend attack that killed 80. Pres. Joe Biden’s withdrawal means there will be a lot more of this in the future.

When the Taliban controlled Afghanistan in the 1990’s they were brutal to women. As the U.S. and its allies withdraw their troops toward a September deadline for leaving entirely, we are getting a taste for what the future holds for human rights. It is already getting ugly and it will just get uglier.

The attack was timed for maximum damage on the young girls who attend a coed school. Bombs were set to go off at the time when the girls left the building, separate from the boys. Moreover, the attack came in the predominantly Shiite Hazara part of Kabul. In addition to the mistreatment and murder of girls and women, expect more persecution of religious minorities.

Girls walk outside a school in Kabul that was bombed over the weekend.

The Afghan government blames the Taliban for the attack. The Taliban blamed the Islamic State. To the dead and injured it doesn’t matter. When the U.S. is gone there will be all out civil war and it will only be a question of which brutal force will take over which part of the country. People will suffer during the fighting and then they’ll suffer again when the next authoritarian regime settles in.

Up until this point, I have been very happy with Pres. Biden’s leadership and with most of his policies. I could quibble over the size of the COVID relief package, but that’s just a question of degree. But I think his Afghan withdrawal will be seen as a monumental humanitarian and strategic blunder. I hope I’m wrong, but it looks to me like a mistake of historic proportions.

I think I understand the domestic politics. It’s hard to get Americans to focus on any aspect of foreign policy and so it’s easy to draw baseless parallels to other “forever wars”, like Vietnam. Moreover, there’s a strong isolationist streak in the Democratic Party and in the public at large.

But the Vietnam comparison was never apt. That country never fostered terrorists that attacked Americans on American soil. And, in Afghanistan, for the price of a very small number of troops on the ground — about 3,000 — we leveraged allied support and we kept the worst of the extremist terror at bay. And as for “forever wars”, we’ve had troops in Europe and Korea for 70 years. Are those “forever wars” too?

I can’t help but feel that when Biden leaves office, this will be the decision that haunts his sleep.


Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

2 thoughts on “More Of This To Come

  1. The idea that we’ve had any realistic control of Afghanistan is a fiction peddled by a wide variety of players. Matt Taibbi wrote an eye-opening and heartbreaking interview with Adrian Bonenberger, author of “Afghan Post” who served two tours in Afghanistan. According to Bonenberger, the Taliban controls 80% of Afghanistan.

    Afghanistan, as the initial frontline in the ‘War on Terror’ is a far better example of a forever war than Vietnam. It is a quagmire we should have extracted ourselves from at least 10 years ago. Yes, we do not belong in Europe or Korea. We can certainly be appropriately engaged without having an armed presence. Democrats lost their soul conflating the two. Thinking that we don’t spend too much in treasure or blood to maintain a presence there is an excellent example.

    Afghanistan is a 3-dimensional game of chess. There is and always was more going on there than is being popularly presented.

    Biden’s destruction of the US economy will haunt him far more than this withdrawal, if it is an actual withdrawal – ie soldiers and private contractors.


    1. Thanks for this thoughtful reply. But I believe that active U.S. involvement in the world is important to the cause of liberal values and to our own security. It’s far from perfect — too often we’ve supported dictators because they served our strategic or economic interests and that only helped spur opposition to the U.S. in the bargain. But that’s not what’s going in Afghanistan.


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