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Sprinkles from the Left

More than one-third of Americans support troop withdrawals from Afghanistan as part of the deal struck with the Taliban in February 2020 (34%), one-quarter of Americans are against troop withdrawals from Afghanistan as part of the deal struck with the Taliban in February 2020 (25%), and 41% didn’t respond to the question. (National Opinion Research Center)

  • Commentators from the Left are split on the decision.

“Our country has been spared another major terrorist attack not because we have invaded and occupied Iraq and Afghanistan for the past two decades, but because our intelligence services, our police agencies and our special operations forces have been working tirelessly to keep the terrorist threat at bay. The Sept. 11 attacks occurred because international terrorism had not been a primary focus for our intelligence community. That certainly is not the case today. It’s time that we acknowledge terrorism for what it is — international organized crime. These criminal organizations are best countered not by large-scale deployment of troops, but by close cooperation with our international partners, focused diplomacy and shared intelligence.”

Retired Army Captain Dan Berschinski; USA Today

“The United States has expended trillions of dollars and 2,372 American lives on its occupation of Afghanistan. The war we triggered in that country has killed at least 100,000 Afghan civilians. America’s toppling of the Taliban did facilitate genuine advances for Afghan women, whose rates of school enrollment, life expectancy, and civil-service employment have all increased by large margins…

… Proponents of a prolonged occupation argue that the withdrawal of U.S. troops will jeopardize these gains by clearing the way for a civil war that the Taliban is better equipped to win. But even with U.S. troops stationed in the country, the Taliban has been gaining ground. Disempowering the Islamist movement would require sacrifices that the U.S. public shows no inclination to make. And for good reason…

… No significant American national security or geopolitical interests are at stake in Afghanistan. As the past year has painfully illustrated, there are greater threats to American well-being than those seared into our national psyche on 9/11. Pandemic prevention, climate-change mitigation, and nuclear deproliferation will do far more to reduce catastrophic threats to U.S. public safety than preventing governments sympathetic to extremists from taking power in the Middle East.”

Eric Levitz; New York Magazine

“The United States has made this kind of blunder before, with disastrous consequences. In Afghanistan, in the 1990s. After occupying the country for a decade, the Soviet Union pulled out of the country in early 1989… As the Soviets withdrew, the US closed its embassy in Afghanistan, abandoning the country. The US was largely ‘blind’ in Afghanistan during the years of civil war that followed. That led to the emergence of the Taliban, which then gave sanctuary to al Qaeda…

… A similar dynamic played out a decade later when then-Vice President Joe Biden and his then-national security adviser, Tony Blinken, negotiated the pullout of all American troops from Iraq in December 2011…

… Three years later, ISIS took over much of the country, including Mosul, the second-largest Iraqi city. The group also seized large sections of neighboring Syria. In its safe haven, ISIS then trained terrorists for large-scale attacks in Western cities, such as Paris, where ISIS claimed credit for killing 130 people in coordinated attacks in November 2015…

… The US then had to send thousands of troops back into Iraq to destroy the ISIS regime, a process that took three-and-a-half years…

… There has to be some magical thinking going on for the Biden White House to expect that there will be a different outcome in Afghanistan. Yes, al Qaeda is a mere shadow of what it was on 9/11. That’s because for the past two decades, the US and its allies have prevented Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for al Qaeda and allied groups. It’s a policy that has worked. Now, that sound policy is being abandoned.”

Peter Bergen; CNN

Sprinkles from the Right

More than one-third of Americans support troop withdrawals from Afghanistan as part of the deal struck with the Taliban in February 2020 (34%), one-quarter of Americans are against troop withdrawals from Afghanistan as part of the deal struck with the Taliban in February 2020 (25%), and 41% didn’t respond to the question. (National Opinion Research Center)

  • Commentators from the Right are split on the decision.

“It’s just not true that, as Biden put it, ‘our reasons for remaining in Afghanistan are becoming increasingly unclear.’ The mission — preventing the creation of a Taliban-sponsored haven for jihadists — remains as clear as it was 20 years ago, and requires a continued, though modest, U.S. presence. Our involvement in Afghanistan was never about building a utopia at the war-torn geopolitical crossroads of Central Asia, despite U.S. efforts to support the development of democracy in the country and over-optimism at times about its prospects. Our involvement was always principally about preventing the reemergence of a terrorist threat capable of killing Americans on U.S. soil…

… Without a continued presence on the ground, Washington will have limited ability to sustain Trump-era air strikes, even as it is sure to face an uptick in terrorist activity. To strike al-Qaeda and perhaps even a resurgent ISIS post-withdrawal, American pilots — or drones — will soon have to fly very long distances, and it will be much more difficult to develop actionable intelligence without a presence on the ground. It will also become all but impossible to deal directly with terrorist threats emanating from Pakistan, and it forfeits a key U.S. position in Iran’s neighborhood…
…The war in Afghanistan has gone on very long, and there has been no shortage of mistakes in how we’ve conducted it. But this withdrawal will likely only swap the unsatisfactory status quo for what we have been trying to avoid coming to pass in Afghanistan the last two decades.”

Editorial Board, National Review

“Through the stabilizing efforts of the United States military, the NATO mission, and the Afghan government, we have achieved so much. Over 9 million Afghan children are in school today, one-third of whom are young girls who were previously banned from accessing education by the Taliban… Most importantly, U.S. training programs have been critical in helping Afghan security forces build up the capacity to protect the people of Afghanistan, the region and the world alike by ensuring that Afghanistan never becomes a haven for terrorism again…

… When President Obama was politically pressured to draw down forces too quickly in Iraq, the United States was ultimately forced to send back even more troops in a surge to fight ISIS. And now, as President Biden faces similar pressure to meet an arbitrary deadline, we urge his administration to reconsider. We must learn from our mistakes, not repeat them… The vacuum left by the United States’ departure would allow for terrorist organizations to rebound and flourish and for all the gains we have dedicated so much to for the past 20 years to be crushed.”

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R - IL); Fox News

“As became painfully obvious as far back as 2010, the war was militarily unwinnable and should have been brought to a conclusion years ago… general after general, and later president after president, refused to acknowledge the obvious and instead sought to change the dynamics by altering the variables: first they tried increasing the number of troops, then piling yet more troops on top of that; other times they tried a reduced number of troops. A whole series of mission changes and goal adjustments were tried. Nothing worked…

… When President Bush sent the military into Afghanistan in October 2001, he gave them clear, limited and attainable military objectives: These ‘carefully targeted actions,’ the president said, ‘are designed to disrupt the use of Afghanistan as a terrorist base of operations and to attack the military capability of the Taliban regime.’ Those objectives were effectively accomplished by the summer of 2002. The Taliban was eradicated as a functioning entity and Al Qaeda had been decimated…

… But instead of taking the win and withdrawing our troops, Bush changed the mission in 2007 to a militarily unattainable objective: nation-building…

… There will likely be small but vocal opposition to this decision, with many citing fears of a new 9/11 if Biden withdraws. The truth, however… is that Afghanistan was little more than incidental to the 2001 terrorist attack against the U.S. (most of the operational planning took place in Germany and here in the U.S.).”

Retired Army Lietenant Colonel Daniel L. Davis; Fox News