by Cameron Salisbury
August 31, 2021
President Biden stated emphatically that chaos was a natural result of the decision to unilaterally withdraw U.S. troops from an expensive and deadly 20 year standoff in Afghanistan. It was done suddenly, catastrophically, without notice. It couldn’t have been done any other way, Biden said. And he was right. Given the way the U.S. military–CIA chose to do it, the disaster was inevitable.
Well, this wasn’t the first withdrawal of a losing invader to leave Afghanistan.
By the late1980s the Russian government knew that the war they had been waging for roughly 6 years, to prop up a friendly Afghan government, was unwinnable. They decided they needed to leave the country, spent a year deciding how to do it and then 3 years implementing a coordinated plan. The plan consisted of bringing the Afghani military and government along so that it would be effective after Russia left. When they finally left after 10 years, it surprised no one. Their soldiers and equipment went with them.
The Afghan population did not.
There are pictures on the internet of a convoy of Soviet tanks threading its way out of Afghanistan returning home. Russia supported the Afghan government for several years until the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. And the Afghan government that the Soviets had supported lasted for years.
But leadership, organization and intelligent planning weren’t the Soviet’s only advantages. Russia had been a close neighbor of Afghanistan. It was familiar with Afghanistan’s people and history.
And it had the good sense to back a viable problem-solver to lead the country, in contrast to the U.S. which chose to back a highly educated intellectual with no people skills or ability to handle conflicts.
Most of all, the USSR lacked the hubris that kept America in an unwinnable war for two decades, cost tens of thousands of lives and trillions of taxpayer dollars. The pundits are lamenting the sudden erasure of U.S. international influence, but what of the opinion of the Americans who underwrite them?
Can we continue to finance an out of control government that is diminishing our own and our kids lives? That is largely run by unelected advisors and lobbyists for their own enrichment? Where is the line?