Where America went wrong in Afghanistan was in “building the nation”. This is a myth. Nations do not build nations. Nations rebuild themselves. President Joe Biden, predictably, didn’t learn the lesson. The opposite of “building a nation” is not running away. It’s being realistic.
After World War II, Japan rebuilt Japan. West Germany rebuilt West Germany. Of course, the United States helped, but you cannot help a people who are unwilling or unable to help themselves.
These countries cleared the rubble and chased it. They also had an advantage. They weren’t being invaded while trying to rebuild. Not in Afghanistan.
Who could contest the decision to expel the Taliban, the bastards who hosted the evildoers responsible for 9/11?
But after that, the United States entered a long period of trial and error – mostly error.
Afghanistan could never be rebuilt like Germany or Japan, as long as the Taliban could continually cross into Pakistani territory and threaten a return. There were few good options.
President George W. Bush wanted to increase the border and block it. He got out of government before trying. President Barack Obama arrived and made an indifferent effort not to appear weak. He gave the military half the time and half the troops they needed.
Obama would have preferred to leave as he did with other problems like Iraq, Syria and Libya. But with ISIS invading Iraq and Begasi, he couldn’t afford to stand up and see what happened. He happily handed the mess into the hands of former President Donald Trump.
Trump acknowledged that “building the nation” of Afghanistan was absurd. He also accepted that the US had important interests. He didn’t want the country to turn into a terrorist Disneyland again. Nor did he want the problems in Afghanistan to destabilize South Asia. Nor did I want the country to look like a loser to the Taliban. That would just create another set of serious problems.
Trump reduced the scope of forces to what is necessary to stop the Taliban and protect US interests and began results-based negotiations with him, where the next steps would be based on fulfilling promises. The number of troops was minimal.
The US should maintain its position like that – a small peacekeeping contingent to support diplomacy.
Biden evidently forgot Obama’s foreign policy failures and immediately went back to the old manual of walking away and seeing what happens.
He probably suspected that Afghanistan would collapse, as the military warned him. No doubt he thought the Taliban would wait until the US left. But of course, that didn’t happen.
Why would they forgo the opportunity to humiliate the United States?
James Carafano is one of the leading national security experts in the United States, is Vice President of Foreign Policy and Defense Studies at the Heritage Foundation.