We're Fleeing Afghanistan. Now What?

The surge of the Taliban and the ongoing collapse of the Afghan government is a tragic development for many Afghans, particularly women and those who have been associated with American forces.  It's also a disgrace and significant setback for both the Biden administration and for the U.S. itself. 

The withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan began with President Trump, who said Americans were tired of a war with no end in sight.  He was correct.  Americans were tired of seeing our brave young soldiers coming home with their arms, legs, and faces blown off or not coming home at all.  What was it for?  What was the purpose? 

Questions from family members are rightfully asked, "What did my son die for?"  "The life of our family is ruined.  The father of my children lost both legs and an arm...why?"  The stories are heartbreaking, and there are no convincing answers to the questions. 

Former secretary of state Mike Pompeo rightfully blamed the Biden administration for its reckless and thoughtless sudden withdrawal without some sort of deal in place with the Taliban and other stakeholders.  But that's just near-term politics.  It avoids the important questions.

If blame is to be assigned, we have to look at leaders of both parties who don't understand history, the dynamics of the region, the basic tenets of radical Islam, or the meaning or purpose of war.  Biden's spokesperson Jen Psaki warned the Afghans that if they continue their attacks on the Afghan government, they will risk isolation from the international community.  Does anybody in his right mind think that these people care about that?  Nothing could be more naïve.

What we are seeing is a possibly historic victory for Islamic jihad, the radical Islamic conquest of a people.  

Pat Buchanan quotes Democrat Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who summarized the situation

The complete, utter failure of the Afghan national army, absent our hand-holding, to defend their country is a blistering indictment of a failed 20-year strategy predicated on the belief that billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars could create an effective democratic central government in a nation that has never had one.

In other words, we have been caught in a trap of our own making.  George W. Bush sent our troops into Afghanistan after 9/11 almost 20 years ago with the primary purpose of knocking out the Taliban and tracking down Osama bin Laden.  In retrospect, there was no planned exit strategy once the Taliban was defeated.  There was no visible strategic plan beyond trying to modernize the country with the forlorn hope that freeing women from the shackles of radical Islam and giving Afghans a new kind of freedom would be sufficient to keep the Islamists at bay.  But in fact, the Taliban was merely pushed back and, with the help of Pakistan, never really defeated.  No strategy often means catastrophic results.

American policy-makers in both parties have ignored the appeal and power of radical Islam.  Bush meant well.  But he was naïve to think that any Muslim nation could be turned into a mirror of our democracy, certainly not in the time frame of just a generation or even two. 

A glance at the region shows that Islam takes many different forms, from Turkey to Egypt to Dubai to Iran to Saudi Arabia to Pakistan and, finally Afghanistan.  But at the core of it all are the basic beliefs.  "There is no God but Allah." 

In his book The History of Jihad: From Muhammad to Isis, Robert Spencer says it is taken for granted among many Washington policymakers that Islam is a fundamentally peaceful religion and that Islamic jihad terrorism is something relatively new, a product of the economic and political ferment of the twentieth century.  But in fact, he says, Islamic terror is as old as Islam itself, as old as Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, who said, "I have been made victorious through terror."

Tracing the 1,400-year war of Islamic jihadis against the rest of the world, the book details the jihad against Europe, including the 700-year struggle to conquer Constantinople; the jihad in Spain, where non-Muslims fought for another 700 years to get the jihadi invaders out of the country; and the jihad against India, where Muslim warriors and conquerors wrought unparalleled and unfathomable devastation in the name of their religion.  Jihad warfare has been a constant of Islam from its beginnings.  Spencer says present-day jihad terrorism proceeds along exactly the same ideological and theological foundations as did the great Islamic warrior states and jihad commanders of the past.

Afghanistan is a special kind of wilderness, both culturally and geographically, where radical Islam cannot be easily obliterated without the amount of indiscriminate bloodshed that hasn't been unleashed since WWII.  No major foreign power has ever been determined or strong enough to conquer Afghanistan.  It was a graveyard for the British; the Soviets; and now, to a lesser degree, us.  The Chinese are already sniffing around, drooling over the potential mineral wealth in Afghanistan.  We'll just have to see how that goes.  The Chinese are history's leading experts in large population control.

So now what?  American and European weakness against the radical Islamic beliefs of the ragtag Taliban is on global display for all to see.  Allies, such as Taiwan and Israel, will have their own interpretations in considering whether they can rely on U.S. support when the going gets tough.  We will understand the full consequences of what's happened only as the months and years unfold.

In the meantime, at a minimum, the Chinese, the Russians, and the Iranians certainly see Biden as a decrepit paper tiger.  This is an open invitation for global mischief and a green light for the radical Islamists.  America at this moment is not mentally, morally, or physically strong enough to defeat radical Islam.  Expect the onslaught in many different forms to continue if not accelerate. 

Frank Hawkins is a former U.S. Army intelligence officer, Associated Press foreign correspondent, international businessman, senior newspaper company executive, founder and owner of several marketing companies, and published novelist.

Image via Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain.

To comment, you can find the MeWe post for this article here.