August 16, 2021

US waited too long to withdraw from Afghanistan

By Paul Scharre

There was no good way for the United States to exit the failed war in Afghanistan.

President Joe Biden inherited a strategically untenable position: a looming deadline for withdrawal, a deal the Taliban had not adhered to and too few U.S. troops on the ground to hold back Taliban advances. The only choices were to escalate, sending in thousands more U.S. troops to fight the Taliban, or complete the withdrawal.

The central problem behind the sudden collapse of the Afghan government isn’t that the United States withdrew too soon or too hastily, but that it waited too long. Once the U.S. government announced its intention to withdraw, Afghan government forces simply collapsed. The weakness and corruption in Afghanistan’s government has been apparent for years and the Taliban have been steadily gaining ground. The United States had long attempted to transition the war to a sustainable footing in which Afghan forces could hold their own against the Taliban with reduced U.S. involvement. This effort failed, and its failure had been apparent for years.

There was no good way for the United States to exit the failed war in Afghanistan.

The disaster unfolding today is the product of years of mismanagement and strategic neglect in Afghanistan across four presidencies, Democratic and Republican, by both military and civilian leaders alike. Both Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump pledged to end the U.S. war in Afghanistan.

Only Biden had the courage to do so. The situation unfolding in Afghanistan is heartbreaking, but the alternative would have been worse: continuing to throw away American lives in an unwinnable war. Delaying the withdrawal would have only postponed the inevitable. Another five years or another 20 years of American engagement in Afghanistan would not have changed the outcome.

Read the full article from USA Today.

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