After nearly a decade of elusive hiding, the US forces finally hunted the monster behind the infamous 9/11 attacks, Osama bin Laden, down and killed him in his small compound. Another ten years passed, and the US government officially announced its plans to withdraw troops from Afghanistan gradually.
The US and the Taliban government have been trying to enter a peace deal for years following bin Laden’s death but kept dancing around firefights. But this was finally light in 2020 when a US official and the Taliban’s Baradar sealed the deal. A year after that, President Joe Biden entirely recalled American troops back into the country—and just like that, the twenty-year war in Afghanistan ended.
However, as this two-decade war ends, a brewing conflict between other US adversaries could open a new door of warfare that can potentially exploit former Afghan security personnel who carries “sensitive knowledge.”
Or, at least, this has been something Republican lawmakers stressed on Sunday during the first anniversary of the Taliban takeover of Kabul.
Western security forces exchanged fire with unidentified gunmen on Monday at #Kabul airport, as US President Joe Biden sought to speed up the chaotic evacuation of tens of thousands of people from Taliban-controlled #Afghanistan https://t.co/n8TF6R120o pic.twitter.com/T9AItzWOcV
— AFP News Agency (@AFP) August 23, 2021
Failure To Evacuate Valuable Assets
According to Reuters, the current administration “failed to prioritize evacuating US-trained Afgan commandos and other elite units in the shambolic August 14-30, 2021” evacuation operation. Concerns were raised when news spread of former military personnel fleeing to Iran.
“We’re going to do everything that we can to provide safe evacuation for our Afghan allies and partners”
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) August 20, 2021
To recap, At least thirteen US soldiers were killed during the withdrawal operation, while hundreds of US citizens and tens of thousands of vulnerable Afghans were left behind. Leaving them behind could expose them to coercion and exploitation from countries such as Russia, China, and Iran.
“[These former personnel] could be recruited or coerced into working for one of America’s adversaries that maintains a presence in Afghanistan, including Russia, China, or Iran,” the Republican report stated.
The report was made by Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee representative Michael McCaul, adding that the nation continues to reel from the damage done last year, “including emboldening and empowering adversaries.”
Further emphasizes that the extensive knowledge of these people could possibly put “national security at risk” since they “know the US military and intelligence community’s tactics, techniques, and procedures.”
"There's a lot of heartbreak associated with this departure. We did not get EVERYBODY out that we wanted to get out."
— Gen. Frank McKenzie, on the conclusion of the US military's evacuation operation in Afghanistan 🇦🇫 https://t.co/OThk7lk9Aw
— Rula Jebreal (@rulajebreal) August 30, 2021
It was a shame when two-decade fighting ended in shambles last year, with some US officials and experts saying that Biden’s administration moved out and on from Afghanistan “without properly assessing lessons” and even allowed the Taliban to take over.
"We have to cover our face, we can't go out alone, we are jobless, we can't raise our voice, we don't have any rights; girls can't go to school; protesters are being detained" Tooba Lutfi, an Afghan woman from Kabul reflects on 12 months since the Taliban takeover #Afghanistan pic.twitter.com/wozDwxCfpZ
— Yalda Hakim (@BBCYaldaHakim) August 15, 2022
Moreover, the Republicans also gathered additional details of the negligent extraction along with congressional testimony and military and news reports that concluded that the administration failed to plan adequately and disregarded the Taliban’s violations of a 2020 pullout deal, Reuters reported.
Another finding stated that the administration waited until hours before the Taliban took over Kabul to make critical evacuation decisions.
War in Afghanistan Lessons: Why So Important To Note?
The war in Afghanistan was undoubtedly the longest in American history, with billions of resources spent and thousands of lives perished. It was even longer than World War I, II, and Vietnam combined. So it is truly a shame that it ended in a scurry, chaotic evacuation operation.
These lessons, according to Reuters, can be “especially crucial now as the administration pumps billions of dollars of assistance into Ukraine’s fight against Russia.”
With all the fighting happening in Eastern Europe, plus the ruckus China is making in Southeast Asia, US policymakers are now more occupied than ever, making it more challenging to call out the Taliban’s aggression in Afghanistan.
But to be fair, the current administration has inherited little time to properly plan the withdrawal considering its predecessor committed to complete the evacuation operation by May 2021. Moreover, this tightly-packed schedule failed to account for the incoming visa applications from Afghans who served the US government.
Nonetheless, this does not excuse them for the disorganized, chaotic evac that they pushed executing last year.
Both the military and states department have been conducting “after-action reviews” on their roles in the withdrawal, but it is yet to be released since it is still under thorough review.
Hard to Know and Predict
The Foreign Policy said that while there is no detection of Iranian conspiring and coercing former Afghans for intelligence, even if they do, “it would be hard to know” as the public information is limited.
When asked if the US has plans to bring these valuable Afghans to the country for safety, a State Department spokesperson wrote:
“The Afghan National Security Forces did not last as long as anyone expected. This was a painful moment for Afghans and the hundreds of thousands of Americans who served in Afghanistan to support the Afghan people.
One year later, we are in a stronger strategic position because of the President’s decision [to withdraw from Afghanistan]. For the first time in nearly 20 years, our forces are not in harm’s way in Afghanistan, and we are fully focused on the challenges and opportunities that define the 21st century.”
Both the Obama and Trump administrations have wanted to end the war now that bin Laden has been eliminated, but both failed, to which Biden eagerly intends to close and stop handing the war to future leaders.
But, rushing to end it… is it really worth it?