Over the weekend, the Taliban seized Kabul as remaining Americans scrambled to get out of the country. David French, writing before the fall of Kabul, but after the Taliban offensive had already overwhelmed much of Afghanistan, comments:
With minimal exertion of military force (relative to our immense national strength), we could have prevented—and for a long while did prevent—this collapse. In fact, America hasn’t suffered a combat casualty in Afghanistan since February 8, 2020. Our military footprint was a fraction of the footprint at the height of the Afghan surge. The Taliban were never going to defeat even a small American force so long as that force remained in the nation.
Sadly, the failure of the nation-building mission obscures the Afghan war’s central success, the very success that we put at risk with our headlong withdrawal—the defense of the United States of America from terrorist attack. I’ve written this before, and I’ll keep writing it, but if you told Americans on September 12, 2001 that we were about to embark on a military mission that would help keep America safe from a significant terror attack for twenty consecutive years, they would have been astounded. It would have been tough for them to imagine that level of success.
Yet the failure of the secondary nation-building mission is causing us to risk, unacceptably, the successes of the primary self-defense mission of the American military. We are in the process of handing the Taliban back its territory and granting jihadists a safe haven. And we’re doing that when we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that terrorists can hit our cities even when their safe havens are located in backwards, tribal societies on the far side of the world.
Because of the lesser failure, we’re throwing away the greater victory. I pray that our nation does not suffer a deadly consequence.