On the surface it sounds like the same situation. But there are strong humanitarian and strategic reasons to stay in Afghanistan.
Corrupt local officials. Demoralized, under-prepared and poorly led troops. An ambivalent local population. Complicated and ancient feuds where the combatants switch sides and the enemy is hard to define. The situation in Afghanistan sounds eerily familiar.
Since Pres. Joe Biden’s announcement that the U.S. would pull all of its remaining troops by September, the Taliban has taken over 26 government outposts, including four regional centers, effectively taking over the government there. In most cases, that has happened without a shot being fired. The government troops just gave up, often taking a payment from the Taliban, and went home.
The writing seems to be on the wall now. When the last of the U.S. and allied troops are gone, the Taliban or other radical groups will over-run the country.
Nonetheless, there are three good reasons for the U.S. and its allies to stay.
First, there are lessons from the U.S. withdrawal from Southeast Asia. That resulted in an horrific humanitarian disaster. More than a million people were slaughtered by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia between 1975 and 1979 after the civil war there. The situation in Afghanistan is likely to follow a similar pattern, with a civil war between competing factions followed by a brutal crackdown by the victors. All semblance of liberal democracy will be wiped out. The rights of women will be turned back by centuries. Twenty years of U.S. investment will be pretty much for naught.
Second, what happens in Afghanistan can have a direct impact on the security of the United States. While the situation in Southeast Asia presented no direct threat to Americans, that’s not true here. The reason we went into Afghanistan in the first place was to root out the sources of radial Islamic terrorist attacks against the U.S. That threat hasn’t gone away.
Third, the U.S. was keeping all this at bay with a small investment of troops — about 3,000 plus another 7,000 allied soldiers. It seems like a small price to pay for the benefits.
It’s true that — just like in Vietnam — we made little progress in nation building. We can’t just leave and expect the government to remain standing. And, yes, that does mean that we may need to stay there for another 20 years. That’s not all that unusual. We’ve been in Europe for 80 years. We’ve been in Korea for 70 years. And we’re in both places with a lot more than 3,000 troops.
Our withdrawal from Afghanistan will result in an utterly predictable human rights disaster and it may well result in direct attacks on Americans, even on American soil, in the future. This is one decision by Joe Biden that I think is a horrible mistake.