Is Leaving Afghanistan the Right Decision?
Back in April of this year, Joe Biden announced that all American troops will be pulled out of combat from Afghanistan for the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Even reaching back to November of 2020, Donald Trump had announced that wanted to do the same and set plans in motion to bring home thousands of our troops from the nation. Since 2001, over 2,300 of our soldiers have died during military service while serving in Afghanistan. At its highest point, over 100,000 American soldiers were sent to serve in the country. In April of 2021, around 2,500 soldiers were still left on the foreign land. As of July, roughly 600 troops remain, with formal plans to end the mission entirely on August 31st.
With all of this in mind and looking at the history of the efforts, it is important to ask ourselves a harsh question. Are we making the right decision by bringing our soldiers home and ending the war?
Just this week, the top United States General in Afghanistan Austin Scott Miller decided to step down. Miller was the longest serving commander throughout the two decade mission in Afghanistan, marking a great change in our nation’s involvement in the long time war efforts against Taliban forces in the region. Miller himself has repeatedly warned that removal of U.S. forces will lead to a potential civil war in the region with Taliban gains over Afghanistan’s land and resources.
The Biden administration hopes to keep order for the people of Afghanistan by diplomacy and peace agreements. State Department official Ned Price says, “…We continue to call for an end to ongoing violence. We know that violence has been driven largely by the Taliban. We know that a negotiated settlement between Islamic Republic and the Taliban is really the only way to end 40 years of violence and importantly to bring, to Afghanistan’s people, the safety, the security and the peace that they seek.”
This hope for potential peace is already falling short though. From a report on July 13th, recently the Taliban killing spree has continued, with 22 Afghan commandos executed by militants. After battling and running out of ammunition, the commandos surrendered to the Taliban and were executed in the daylight despite their efforts. Surrounding villagers became angry with the actions of the Taliban, but nothing more was done to stop them out of fear of retaliation. The country is already becoming more politically unstable within just a short time of U.S. forces leaving the region. Overall, the Taliban currently controls 188 of the country’s 407 districts, with another 135 districts being contested. Afghan soldiers are already being forced to make decisions on which areas to support and which areas to leave behind to Taliban control, leaving the people of Afghanistan alone to defend their own families and households. Reports show over 60,000 Afghan people have been killed by the enemy forces in the nation, with this number potentially increasing as the United States leaves its defenses.
Former President George W. Bush recently has come out against the withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan. He said, “This is a mistake. They’re just going to be left behind to be slaughtered by these very brutal people, and it breaks my heart.” Months before, Bush had told Fox News that, “I’ve always warned that no U.S. presence in Afghanistan will create a vacuum, and into that vacuum is likely to come people who treat women as second class citizens. I’m also deeply concerned about the sacrifices of our soldiers, and our intelligence community, will be forgotten.”
In an exclusive interview with an American source on the ground from Afghanistan, more worries have been revealed about the actions to remove our troops. The source says, “The Sunni Pashtun that we trained are immediately capitulating with the Sunni Pashtun Taliban. The Taliban now control literally 85% of the country. The Taliban stopped announcing how many districts they control last week so as to not embarrass the U.S. They control all logistical supply routes headed to Kabul.”
He continues on to say that their remaining forces with the allied Sunni Pashtun are “fine here walled in”, but that “It is the Uzbeks, Tajiks and Hazara that will be genocided.” He says that almost all the unarmed staff have left due to “covid and the deteriorating situation” and goes on to explain how all the staff and resources have become “barebones” with “basically only gun carriers left”. He finishes his report with, “The Turks and the Chinese have built up so much infrastructure North of here… they planned all along to extract minerals from Afghanistan through the North when the U.S. eventually left”.
A few days later on July 4th, the source on the ground sent one last message claiming that, “The Afghan army walked out of Sultan Khel, 1 hour south of here and left a warehouse of U.S. weapons and ammo to the Taliban.”
China has been moving resources and preparing to make efforts in the region as the United States continues with its planned withdrawal, but many believe that they too will fail. China expert Gordon Chang told Fox News recently that, “Because the Chinese are more vicious, yes, I think they’ll have a better chance of achieving their goals in Afghanistan than us. But having a better chance doesn’t mean they’ll succeed. I think they will just take longer to fail.”
Longer here is relative, as we have spent the past 20 years in the region. But we were there trying to promote democracy and defeat the Taliban and likeminded forces, not attempting to push a ‘belt and road’ initiative like China is planning on doing. The motive is different, and with the United States leaving, who knows what that could mean for Chinese capability within the region.
Even still, does it really matter? There are many major mineral resources in the region that remain untapped, such as chromium, copper, gold, iron ore, lead and zinc, lithium, marble, sulfur and talc. The region also has natural gas and petroleum. Since 2001, Afghanistan has also been the leading producer of opium. Reports say more land is used for opium than coca in Latin America.
With all of this in mind, let us go back to the original thought in question.
Are we making the right decision by bringing our troops back home from Afghanistan?
There are arguments on both sides. If we return or decide to stay, we would have a better chance of helping develop democracy in the land and would be able to assist the people in having freedom from the Taliban and other destructive forces in the region. If we leave, it will be up to the people of Afghanistan to fight for their own home, but soldiers from the United States would finally be able to come back home to their own families and friends. Many say that the War in Afghanistan is an unwinnable war, one that has gone on for centuries, if not for thousands of years as division lines change and old blood turns. When it all comes down to it, why should we remain in an endless war? To keep China out? To take resources we haven’t taken over 20 years? To develop democracy that, in 20 years, still wasn’t entirely possible despite all of our efforts to do so?
We didn’t win the war. We didn’t lose the war. Both are ok. The fact of the matter is, we found ourselves in the middle of a civil war between people of many ideologies and beliefs. In my opinion, every single country on Earth has its problems. At a certain point, people just have to learn to stand up for themselves. There’s not much more that we could possibly teach or show them that we haven’t been able to do or show over the past 20 years. Should we spend the rest of time keeping individual Americans in Afghanistan?
If you ask me, I would say no. Let them come home and stay home. I’m sure there will be another war for another day that hopefully has more meaning and purpose, but for now, let the Americans who have been in Afghanistan come home and stay home for a while. The War on Terror may never end, but the War in Afghanistan can. Not only that, but in many of our stationed areas that we constantly keep American soldiers, I believe the same can and should be done. Bring them home. Train them here. Use technology. Use intelligence rather than ground forces. Let others fight and teach themselves. One day another real war will happen, sadly enough, but until that time I would say let us bring Americans back to America. But that is just my opinion.