Local Opinion – Afghanistan

Should We Have Left Afghanistan?

Submitted by Kenneth Peterson, MAJ USA (Ret.), Buchanan MI

Twenty years ago, the U.S. entered Afghanistan to root out Al Qaeda terrorists and topple the Taliban government for attacks against the U.S. on 9/11.  American troops quickly crushed the Taliban forces who offered an unconditional surrender in Dec 2001, which unfortunately the U.S. rejected.  We then decided to take our turn at “Democratic Nation Building” and spent billions trying to build up a poor, fractious country devastated by years of conflict (conflict we helped create).

Others have tried and failed to place Afghanistan under their influence. The Soviets fought a nine-years (1979-1989) against Afghan insurgents.  The U.S. backed those insurgents with expertise and weapons. The Soviets walked away defeated after losing 15,000 dead.

For 20 years we backed a corrupt Afghan government in a country with minimal income sources and, in many cases, an Afghan military unwilling to fight. During this time, 80% of Afghanistan’s budget was financed by the U.S..  Afghanistan’s biggest economic activity is supplying 80% of the world’s heroin. 

Sadly, many U.S. lives have been lost – 2,461 military and 3,846 contractors. We have spent $2 trillion dollars.               

So why did we stay? Unfortunately, once entering a conflict, our military leaders and key advisors find it impossible to disengage because the military doesn’t admit failure. “We’ll have this won shortly,  just give us another 10,000 personnel and another 2-years.”   

I served 20 yrs. in the U.S. Army and watched this same scenario occur in Vietnam, an intervention in a guerrilla war while supporting a corrupt government and a poorly led military.  It didn’t end well.  We don’t seem to learn. 

Trump’s disastrous agreement with the Taliban set the stage for our chaotic Afghanistan exit.  The agreement, negotiated without Afghan government involvement, required the U.S. remove Taliban sanctions, release 5,000 Taliban/Isis prisoners, and evacuate all U.S. troops by 5-1-2021. This agreement did not stop the Taliban from attacking Afghan military or civilians.  It did not guarantee safe passage for U.S. citizens or Afghan special visa holders.

We needed more time, better concessions from the Taliban, and more coordination to pull all Americans and our Afghan allies out sooner. 

I’m afraid every evacuation from a war is messy.  However, President Biden is totally correct in his actions to exit America’s Longest War, and the U.S. has done an exceptional job of evacuating 120,000 personnel.   

Yes, we needed to exit from our latest failed intervention. 

Ken Peterson, MAJ USA (Ret.), Buchanan

*The Buchanan Chronicle wishes to provide a venue for public opinion to be heard. We may edit but only for typos, language, or length; as we desire to present submitted opinions as received.*

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