Biden's disgraceful retreat
For more than a decade, I hunted terrorists as a supervisory special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration, and I believe that the United States' abandonment of Afghanistan is a disgraceful, immoral, and short-sighted foreign policy disaster.
On September 11, 2001, I was one of the first rescuers to reach the World Trade Center after it collapsed. I stood in the rubble and swore an oath to seek vengeance against the Islamists who targeted the U.S. I pushed my agency to investigate narco-terrorism and spent the next 14 years pursuing terrorists across the globe. I helped open the DEA's office in Kabul, wrestled a suicide bomber, fought the Taliban in combat, and chased terrorists across five continents. I achieved the first precedent-setting narco-terrorism arrest and convicted the world's most prolific heroin trafficker.
For days, I've been receiving frantic messages from Afghan allies who are trapped in Afghanistan or have families still in grave danger. The U.S. has a moral obligation to protect Afghan citizens who fought side by side with Americans against the Taliban, the Islamic State, al-Qaeda, the Haqqani Network, and other terror groups. Right now, Islamists are going house to house, raping and murdering American allies. The rapid abandonment of the Afghan military and our other allies is unconscionable, but there is still time to expand the beachhead at Kabul International Airport and evacuate tens of thousands of Afghans who will otherwise be murdered for believing in democracy and human rights.
Despite problems with reconstruction, the war in Afghanistan has been successful. The purpose of the invasion was to depose the Taliban regime that provided a haven for al-Qaeda and to combat terrorism. The U.S. achieved those goals by pushing the Taliban into Pakistan and denying the country to terrorists for almost twenty years. Southwest Asia has the highest concentration of terror groups in the world, and it is the epicenter of radical Islamic terrorism. A strong military presence in Afghanistan has facilitated intelligence, law enforcement, and military operations against Islamists who want to destroy the West. The advantage of maintaining a military presence in Afghanistan has been obvious.
Shortly after the invasion, the U.S.'s goals transitioned into reconstruction. The U.S. spent trillions of dollars, much of which disappeared into dark caves of corruption and bureaucratic incompetence. Critics argued that creating a democracy was impossible in a country with no history of individualism, but it takes time for cultures to change, and Afghanistan saw improvement. After decades of invasions and civil war, girls went to school, women rejoined society, and an eighth-century culture took its first steps into modernity.
The Taliban and other Islamist terror groups were not destroyed because of failed political and military strategies. When al-Qaeda and the Taliban fled into Pakistan, the U.S. asked Pervez Musharraf to deal with them. That was a mistake. Putting an Afghan face on reconstruction and the war resulted in the massive loss of American tax dollars, and it inhibited the American military through restrictive rules of engagement.
There were other failures in Afghanistan beyond not following al-Qaeda across the border, such as systematically releasing enemy combatants and not holding Pakistan responsible for its role in creating and supporting the Taliban. Both Republican and Democratic administrations have mistakenly negotiated with the Taliban, despite the implausibility of reasoning with radical Islamists who seek a global caliphate.
Even if withdrawing from Afghanistan was justified, the rapid retreat did not allow the Afghan government to prepare. In recent months, the Biden administration announced that the Afghan military was ready to take over and the Taliban were not strong enough to conquer the country. Wrong on both counts. Biden claimed that the Taliban did not possess the same capabilities as the North Vietnamese, and the world would not witness another harried Saigon-like evacuation. Wrong again.
By abandoning Afghanistan, the U.S. has given Islamic radicals a base to train, plan, and project terrorism. The Taliban are sworn enemies of the U.S., and the threat of Islamic terrorism has not dissipated. Eventually, Islamic terrorists will attack the homeland again. What could have been prevented by maintaining a few thousand troops in Afghanistan will eventually result in the necessity of another invasion.
Next month is the 20-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. How soon we forget.
Jeffrey James Higgins is a retired supervisory special agent who wrestled a suicide bomber, fought Taliban in combat, and chased terrorists across five continents. http://JeffreyJamesHiggins.com.
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