Morning Belz, Aug. 17
They don't want us there.
It’s hard to admit defeat, and wrenching to see the chaotic, sometimes horrific, images coming from Afghanistan. Airport tarmacs full of men begging to escape. Taliban flags flying from pickups on a canter through newly-conquered cities. People clinging to the wheels of C-17s and falling to their deaths on takeoff. Taliban leaders quietly inhabiting the ornate palace in Kabul.
The West, and its friends, are bugging out. The Taliban is calmly taking the keys to the country. The most troubling part is the possibility that those who helped the U.S. are now in special danger. A former interpreter for the U.S. military was, reportedly, shot and beheaded in May as the U.S. started to withdraw and the Taliban started to flex. Other former interpreters, members of the fallen government, women, Christians, and anyone who has opposed the Taliban have reason to fear. That’s the worst part for me — that we may have abandoned so many to an uncertain fate.
But let’s not get it twisted. It’s past time to get out of Afghanistan. This extrication was never going to be easy, and in the end it required an unintentionally ingenious bit of bipartisanship from two presidents to pull it off. Donald Trump left Joe Biden a shoddy “peace” deal with the Taliban. The deal didn’t include the actual, you know, Afghan government, but it did give Biden political cover to withdraw soldiers from the country. That’s what he’s done. How that was executed, the intelligence failure, the consequences for the Afghani people and America’s commitment to its friends in the country — these are important questions that need answers. But Biden was firm on Monday that we’re still leaving, and ultimately — come on — that’s the right call.
The White House claims to have been surprised by the speed of the Taliban’s ascendancy. Biden said the now-failed Afghan government, such as it was, discouraged large-scale evacuation on the thinking it would destabilize the country. And President Ashraf Ghani, now decamped to Uzbekistan, said his government would be ready to fight. It certainly was not. The Taliban took the country largely unopposed, and now the group is stocking up on humvees and guns, tooling around with old helicopters and directing traffic in Kabul.
They’re in charge, just like they were 20 years ago. They were always going to be in charge where the U.S. military wasn’t. Once American air power withdrew from the ski, the Taliban was back. It’s a hopeless fact, especially for anyone who fought in the long war, or loved someone who did, and of course for any Afghani.
But the abrupt, chaotic end of the occupation only serves to reinforce the reasons it should have ended long ago. Afghanistan prefers the Taliban to any government the U.S. props up, and U.S. military leaders still don’t understand that country. I don’t know the right tactical steps for the next few days and weeks, but getting out soon is how it should end. Occupying a land that accepts Taliban rule the minute the U.S. leaves has not worked, and will not work. I don’t think it takes a master’s degree from Georgetown to see that. And let’s not invoke the sadness of veterans at seeing their sacrifice wasted. As recently as April 2020, three-quarters of them supported a full withdrawal. If China gets a little more geopolitical power from this debacle, so be it. We should do our best to help people in danger leave the country, then we gotta go.
Refugees from Afghanistan will need help, initially in the Seattle, D.C., Houston and Fort Worth metropolitan areas. As usual, Lutheran charities are leading the way.
”Oh well, no matter what happens, there’s always death.” — Napoleon, 1817
Morning Belz comes out most weekdays and is published by Adam Belz, a former newspaper reporter who lives just outside Chattanooga, Tenn. Hope you benefit from it. Please shoot me a note if you have suggestions, ideas or corrections, share it with anyone you think might enjoy it, and please check out Scuffed News on YouTube. You can support that work, and this, with your money on Patreon.