At this very moment, the Taliban are conducting a blitzkrieg campaign that would make Hitler proud. The gains they have made in the last week are disturbing, as the Afghan National Army (ANA) and other Afghan government security forces are incapable or unwilling to stand and fight. The ANA is simply giving territory away and the Taliban are recapturing it.
President Biden has doubled down on his statements claiming that the ANA and the Afghan government can and will defend themselves and the country. This is not only grossly inaccurate, it’s patently false. It borders on a lie that no one in the administration can possibly believe. One cannot help but wonder if President Biden is even paying attention; what is he watching?
While many people are seemingly surprised about the gains the Taliban have made in the last two weeks, many of us are not. In fact, we knew it was coming. And we’ve been saying it for years.
While President Biden clings to this naivety about Afghanistan, the situation is getting worse.
Afghanistan Is Under Siege
As of this writing, the entire country of Afghanistan is under siege. The Taliban now control a majority of the 400+ districts in Afghanistan. Provincial capitals are failing daily, and Kabul is nearly surrounded.
In the south Kandahar has fallen and Herat has been captured in the west. The Taliban control nearly all the key cities in the country. Kabul is cut off on all sides except for the east, and the Taliban have a seemingly unstoppable momentum. Kabul is a land-locked and isolated capital. It depends on being supplied and connected to every other city in the country and to Pakistan in the east.
At the time of this writing, the Taliban have entered Kabul’s outskirts. Once they enter the capital, the game is over. Right now, it’s the fourth quarter, and it seems that this game is all but over. It’s like one of those blow-out games, in which the winning team is so far ahead that we all leave the game early and start heading to our cars to beat the rush.
The humanitarian crisis is growing by the minute. Thousands of people are fleeing the provinces and the countryside, heading to Kabul. As the Taliban are surrounding the largest city in the country, these refugees will only make the situation more desperate and direr thus increasing the stakes.
The Taliban Are Who They Are
The atrocities that the Taliban are infamous for are happening on a daily basis. Their brutal treatment of women and girls is once again in full swing. Indeed, 20 years of vast progress we made in Afghanistan is being reversed in weeks. Teenage girls as young as 12 or 15, are being taken as sex slaves and wives for Taliban fighters. Journalists are leaving the country and people suspected of working or having worked with the U.S. and Coalition partners are being summarily executed. The Taliban’s goal is to establish an Islamic emirate with extreme Sharia law, and nothing less.
The great Maya Angelou famously said, “when someone shows you who they are, believe them.”
For years, many people argued that for Afghanistan to have a chance in peace the Taliban had to have a seat at the table. This is also false. Seeing the Taliban as a part of the solution is misguided. Letting the fox in the hen house is not the way to stop it from killing all the chickens. The Taliban are not trustworthy and never have been.
The talks under the Trump administration and those desperately happening now were never going to work. The Taliban have even admitted that they never intended on keeping any of the terms agreed to with the Trump administration, anyway.
But now that everyone finally (and hopefully) sees the Taliban for who they are, it’s too late. Everything that the U.S. and Coalition partners have fought and claimed to have fought for is being lost. History and the world might not look kindly on President Biden and his administration for how they are handling the situation. Nor should they.
President Biden Should Reverse Course in Afghanistan
American citizens and our military don’t want a forever war. The intent of Presidents Trump and Biden to end the 20-year conflict in Afghanistan was the right one. The execution, however, plagued by a weak plan and a short-sighted timetable is ruining a noble intent. Against the advice of military experts, and while ignoring the realities of the situation, President Biden is withdrawing anyway.
There are many reasons why President Biden should reconsider the withdrawal, rather than doubling down with hasty hubris.
Firstly, the humanitarian crisis alone justifies any reversal of poor decision-making. In many ways, we are creating this crisis. This event bears significant echoes of Iraq in 2011. It seems we have not learned much over the years. Atrocities will follow and continue. All our work will be for nothing. The very thing we are fighting against — terrorism and its state sponsors — will again come to pass.
Secondly, by knowing when the U.S. would be leaving, the Taliban were ready to exploit that timetable. The September 11 withdrawal date is arbitrary and just sounds good on cable news. All the contractors, who provide maintenance and technical support to the Afghan military, are also leaving. The Afghans have not been trained in these roles and are not prepared to assume them as part of the transition. Those roles include things like helicopter mechanics and technical systems expertise. These systems and tools are needed for the Afghans to effectively fight against the Taliban. The U.S. created a void by leaving Afghanistan unprepared. The Taliban are quickly filling it.
Thirdly, a large power vacuum will be created in the region and it will be very difficult for the U.S. to refill it. American interests will suffer. Extremism and terrorism will thrive again. Our rivals, Iran, Russia, China, will benefit from our withdrawal.
Avoiding Another Disastrous Mistake
Obama made a huge mistake when he ordered the premature withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. How ironic was it, then, that U.S. troops went back only a few years later, as ISIS exploited a similar power vacuum. It is arguable that the civil war in Syria, Iraq’s week state, and the absence of U.S. forces from the area, allowed the rapid growth and horror of ISIS.
The situation in Afghanistan is strikingly similar in many ways, and the president is handling it in an equally arrogant way. It should be no surprise. Obama was strikingly arrogant and Biden seems to want to continue that legacy.
In addition to the thousands of troops just ordered to go to Afghanistan to secure the embassy and help safeguard the U.S. withdrawal, President Biden should order more U.S. troops back to the country. About 340,000 Afghan troops are losing to what seems to be about 60,000 to 70,000 Taliban.
While we do not need to continue wasting American lives and money in Afghanistan, we should leave in the right way. This means going back now — instead of a few years from now — before it’s too late. We should have destroyed the Taliban before. The U.S. and Coalition partners should still destroy the Taliban now.
We should ensure that we are leaving the country a better place than we found it. We should also ensure that this “better place” actually has a chance to continue existing.