LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Should we have left Afghanistan?

Published 10:24 am Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Twenty years ago, the U.S. entered Afghanistan to squash Al Qaeda and topple the Taliban government for the attacks on 9/11.  After quickly crushing Taliban forces, America then decided to expand into “Nation Building” and spent billions trying to strengthen a fractious country devastated by years of conflict which we helped create.

Others have failed in Afghanistan. The Soviets fought there (1979-1989) against insurgents backed by U.S. expertise and weapons. The Soviets left defeated losing 15,000 dead.

For 20 years we backed a corrupt Afghan government which had minimal income sources and, in many cases, an Afghan military unwilling to fight.  The U.S. financed 80 percent of Afghanistan’s budget while Afghanistan supplied 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.               

Why stay?  Unfortunately, our military leaders and key advisors find it impossible to disengage because the military doesn’t admit failure.

I served 20 years in the U.S. Army and watched our intervention in Vietnam as we supported a corrupt government and a poorly led military.  We don’t seem to learn.

Trump’s disastrous Taliban agreement set the stage for our chaotic Afghanistan exit.  The agreement, negotiated without the Afghan government, required releasing 5,000 Taliban/Isis prisoners, and evacuating 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 Afghan allies out sooner.

However, President Biden is totally correct in exiting America’s Longest War, and the U.S. has done an exceptional job evacuating 120,000 personnel.   

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

Ken Peterson