Starting with the announcement six months ago, I’ve excoriated President Joe Biden over the unnecessary and immoral Afghanistan surrender.
Isolationists across the political spectrum disagreed throughout the spring and summer, but recent events proved them wrong; now, in part due to the tragedies wrought by the Biden administration’s actions, a shift in attitudes toward our military commitments abroad is occurring.
Quinnipiac University’s latest poll was all bad news for Biden everywhere, but overlooked was that only 28 percent of American voters still supported a full withdrawal from Afghanistan. The majority — yes, over 50 percent — favored keeping a military force behind.
“Weary of the seemingly endless conflict but wary of what was left behind, the majority of people still see boots on the ground as the firewall between a country in the grip of Western hating factions and the rest of the world,” Quinnipiac University analyst Tim Malloy explained.
Indeed, the common “Americans want out” cliché is inaccurate, especially when people consider the dire consequences.
Even in a new 5,000–word magazine essay by a British foreign service guru criticizing interventionism, the author confessed that leaving Afghanistan the way Biden did was foolhardy, saying “the cost of remaining beyond 2021 would have been minimal” and we “could have supported 2,500 soldiers in Afghanistan almost indefinitely—and with little risk.”
“But just as the initial light footprint was better than the surge, so the later light footprint was better than a total withdrawal. A few thousand international troops, supporting air operations, were still capable of preventing the Taliban from holding any district capital—much less marching on Kabul,” former British Secretary of State for International Development Rory Stewart claimed. “And by preventing a Taliban takeover, the troops were able to buy valuable time for health and educational outcomes to improve, development assistance to continue, income and opportunity to grow, and rights to be more firmly established for millions of Afghans.”
Stewart, who spent time in both Afghanistan and Iraq, is correct.
The Taliban “won” only because the United States withdrew. To top it off, we crippled the Afghan Air Force upon our departure, and left local troops without resupply lines.
The catastrophic and unwise decision to withdraw was driven not by military reality, morals, or even our larger foreign policy objectives, but by partisan domestic politics.
The last three presidential administrations so opposed the Bush administration’s post-9/11 foreign policy that they refused to explain how minimal the American presence in Afghanistan had become or what it was protecting.
“Advocates of retrenchment from America’s post-9/11 obligations abroad now must defend their position against the undesirable real-world consequences their policy preferences produce. Full withdrawal from Iraq gave way to the rise of an unspeakably violent, abusive, and repressive terrorist caliphate, requiring America’s return to the theater,” Noah Rothman wrote last week in Commentary . “Full withdrawal from Afghanistan has so far given way to the very same thing, the full consequences of which are yet to come. They are making a more compelling case for American extroversion in ways full-throated advocates for U.S. engagement in the world never could.”