Senator Dick Durbin
“When you’re wounded and left in the plains of Afghanistan, and the women come out to chop up what’s left, joke about your rifle and blow your brains out and go to your Gawd like a soldier. Rudyard kipling
It is a humiliating country.
In modern times, three of the world’s greatest empires have boldly invaded Afghanistan and ultimately left in defeat.
The British Empire exceeded its imperial grip and, in 1842, had to face the bloody evacuation of Kabul. As more than 16,000 soldiers and settlers exited the retreating country, the Afghans killed them one by one until there was only one messenger to tell the dark story as a warning to the Queen at Buckingham Palace.
History of being in Afghanistan
Ignoring the British lesson, the Soviet Union suffered the same fate when it attempted to install a puppet leader in Afghanistan. In the 1990s, tribal fighters overpowered Stinger missiles and brought the Russians to their knees. They retreated to Moscow.
Today, after the longest war in our history, America and its NATO allies are leaving after we have lost sight of our original mission. With over two thousand brave American lives lost and two trillion US dollars spent, we are leaving a fragile and corrupt government and a Taliban insurgency.
When Congress gave President George W. Bush permission to invade Afghanistan in 2002, the wounds of 9/11 were still fresh and the mission was clear: find and destroy Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. And yet, as the saying goes, whatever your reason, it is much easier to get into a war than it is to get out of it.
We have endured corrupt rulers; warlords loyal to the highest bidder; betrayal by the Afghan allies; fights by proxy of regional powers; Pakistan harbors our enemies; and only the thinnest proof of nationality. Although we opened their society to equal treatment for women and put an end to some of the brutality of extremists, we understood that we were only seeing temporary gains. And Taliban control continued to expand despite our presence and our efforts to put in place an Afghan security force to stop them.
Several years ago, I asked General James Mattis, then our Secretary of Defense, why we are continuing this Afghan madness. His response was simple: “If we leave, things will get worse.”
As much as I respect it, I never believed it was a rational basis for a strategy.
Those close to President Trump say he tried to end our presence in Afghanistan throughout his tenure, but was persuaded to reduce Allied force and continue fruitless negotiations with the Taliban even then. that they were pursuing further violence and kidnapping Mark Frerichs, who is from my home state.
Afghanistan:I lost both my legs fighting in Afghanistan. Staying there does not honor our troops.
President Biden has said he will be the last US president to worry about this move and that he will end our presence in September. Quite simply, he will not pass this war on to a fifth American president. And I think he’s right.
It is disheartening to me that after voting against the invasion of Iraq and joining an almost unanimous bipartisan vote to invade Afghanistan, we are now being told that a variant of al Qaeda is still present and that we may even need the Taliban to help suppress them. We are told that the United States will continue to support the 300,000 members of the Afghan security force but it is difficult to reconcile this promise with any working relationship with their enemy, the emerging political force of the Taliban.
Some things won’t bow to reason or force
Some hope for a division of territory and power within the country, and a semblance of stability. I am equally skeptical, and I think Afghan history tells us that any foreign power, or its Afghan surrogate, will not survive the ferocious force to push back “the outside”.
The fate of women, allies of the United States, and of anyone deemed unfaithful by the Taliban is rightfully appalling. We owe it to those who risked their lives for America and NATO to help them find safe refuge and provide them with refugee protection. The future of Afghan women is also of great concern. We must make their cause our top priority in any future relationship between our countries.
Withdrawal from Afghanistan:Withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan: Biden’s unforced error puts America in danger
Ultimately, we must pay tribute to the courageous work done by so many American and NATO soldiers and civilians, as well as their Afghan counterparts – after all, more than 43,000 Afghan civilians have also been killed in the conflict since. 2001. Our soldiers heroically met the goals of their initial mission and the work that followed by so many others helped to sow the fragile seeds of a better life for many.
But we should also be humbled to see that in this changing world with dazzling discoveries and innovations, Afghanistan has taught us that in many countries there are historical elements that will not easily bow to reason or to strength. Like many other great powers in history, we have paid dearly to have this truth remembered on the plains of Afghanistan.
President Biden wisely decided that we had paid enough – and I agree.
Senator Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Follow him on Twitter: @DickDurbin