The Afghanistan Mistake
For 20 years America has been fighting a war in Afghanistan against the Taliban. The war started because the Taliban was harboring terrorists from Al-Qaeda, the group responsible for the September 11th attacks. At this point, the main goal of the war in Afghanistan was to deter organizations such as the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. As such, one of the main objectives was to kill Osama bin Laden himself for the roles he played in leading the attack and Al-Qaeda as a whole. In 2011, 10 years into the war US intelligence had located bin Laden hiding out in a compound in Pakistan. A Navy SEAL team carried out a raid that lasted for 40 minutes and resulted in Osama bin Laden dying from two gunshots.
The killing of Osama bin Laden marked the end of the first half of the war in Afghanistan. By this point, it appeared that the US had carried out its mission in Afghanistan, bin Laden was dead and Al-Qaeda seemed to be dying out. Nonetheless, the Obama administration opted to stay in Afghanistan. The purpose for this was not exactly clear at the time., but many people assumed that the US would shift to focusing on nation-building in Afghanistan. A strong Afghan government could help to quell any future counterinsurgency efforts by militant organizations such as the Taliban, however as time went on, it was clear that this was not the case. America didn’t really have any strategy or actual plan to win the war at all after killing Osama bin Laden.
Essentially, the only plan America had at this point was to stay in Afghanistan until the Taliban and Al-Qaeda magically went away. In fact, President Biden just confirmed this in his new statement on the war in Afghanistan, he said, “Our mission in Afghanistan was never supposed to have been nation-building. It was never supposed to be creating a unified, centralized democracy. Our only vital national interest in Afghanistan remains today what it has always been: preventing a terrorist attack on the American homeland.” The way that they were going to prevent a terrorist attack on US soil was simply by denying Al-Qaeda a base of operations. What most people realized quickly is that with this strategy, we were stuck in Afghanistan forever and that we were sending soldiers overseas with no particular goal in mind.
Until recently, a majority of Americans supported withdrawing from Afghanistan. However, after the recent Taliban takeover and evacuation crisis, support for withdrawal dropped drastically. Many people have simply concluded that no matter when we left, the Taliban would take over Afghanistan the second we left. To some extent, they are certainly correct, with the strategy that was employed, a loss was inevitable. There is absolutely no reason that the Taliban should have been able to take over so quickly. All the US needed to do was ensure that the Afghan military was strong enough to withstand attacks from a few guerrilla fighters. If the US had built up the Afghan military, there would be no need for any presence in Afghanistan whatsoever.
Unfortunately, the US did not focus on building up the Afghan military. There will be consequences for this tactical blunder. Obviously, the evacuations were an immediate consequence, but what will happen once the Taliban has conquered all of Afghanistan and gets settled in? Last time that happened, the Word Trade Center came tumbling down. It is not hard to imagine that in the near future, Al-Qaeda terrorist attacks will resume again. For now, we are just back where we started 20 years ago. The Taliban controls Afghanistan, and it is probably only a matter of time before a massive terrorist attack such as 9/11 is launched against America by Al-Qaeda again.