The Case for a Military Return to Afghanistan

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What I’m about to say is highly controversial, but I think it’s the elephant in the room even for many who support ending the Forever War.  With this mess in Afghanistan, things look grim for the U.S.  We’ve lost our dignity, the respect of our allies, trust in our good will, and sensible strategic positioning.   And now a deadly terror attack at Bagram has claimed the lives of dozens of American servicemen and Afghanis.  Our hearts bleed.

Across the planet people are wondering if America has lost her mojo.  A pathetic and belated speech by the president didn’t ease those concerns as he threatened to take bold retaliatory action out of one side of his mouth, but continue with the withdrawal deadline unabated, out of the other—placing what we now know is lethal dependence on an alliance with our “new partners” in the region, the Taliban.  As if the ass-backwards withdrawal weren’t confounding enough, this latest “strategy” articulated by General McKenzie and the president is so patently asinine, forget about America’s lost mojo.  America has lost her freaking mind.

To make things even worse, this self-inflicted punch to the gut came from the class idiot.

Meanwhile, the Taliban is in control and possesses $80 billion worth of proprietary, high-tech weaponry.  With our porous borders, the risk for retaliation on American soil is breathtaking.  As we abandon the world stage, Russia and China are poised to fill the vacuum. 

Do we just let it all unfold?  Or, take a different approach?

Through the fog of our reckless disengagement from Afghanistan, there just might be an opening to make lemonade out of withdrawal lemons.  I don’t sense support among the people for allowing the withdrawal to proceed as is.  After this attack, even less.  It would diminish our stature as a world power taking third seat to the Russians and Chinese, give them access to the vast resources and strategic positioning of Afghanistan, while enhancing their hegemony around the globe and reconciling ourselves to the sad fact that we wasted 20 years of treasure, time and troops.  That’s an enormous price to pay and could very well sound the death knell for America.   

What are our alternatives?   At a minimum, “leave no man behind” demands we send whatever troops and resources are needed to bring Americans, allies, and SIVs back.  I would include reclaiming whatever’s left of our weaponry.  An administration with a spine would tell the Taliban tough tiddlywinks:  you broke the deal of ensuring a safe and complete withdrawal so we’re staying until every American, ally, SIV, and bullet has been rescued or recovered. 

At most, after the rescues, we level an all-out offensive to take back our weaponry, airports, and any other military installations, push the Taliban perimeter back into the hills, and kill as many along the way as possible.  Before you call me a warmonger or neo-con, hear me out.

The Taliban, Al-Qaeda, ISIS K, and jihadis across the globe are feeling awfully confident.  The Taliban  emerged like locusts from underground to ravage the Afghani countryside, took Kabul, are calling the shots, and successfully defeated the Great Satan.  Yet, they are vulnerable in a way they haven’t been for decades:  fully exposed and in plain sight.  We know their numbers, location, and how well armed they are.  It’s a lot easier to rout an enemy that’s out and about and feeling groovy, than scattered throughout caves in the hinterlands.  This is a unique opportunity.

Yet, our leaders stubbornly perseverate on how fast we can extricate ourselves from this disaster, when this massacre makes abundantly clear that haphazardly rescuing some of our people at the mercy of the Taliban is not a solution.  The focus should be rescue people and recover munitions while contemplating a fight to retake our holdings and cripple, if not obliterate, the Taliban.  Then we talk about drawdowns.    

The original upside of leaving Afghanistan, is no longer an upside. Whether we turn tail or dive back in, the costs are astronomical—spending what we’ve spent, losing all we’ve accomplished, and the horrific geopolitical consequences we now face are about equal to the cost in terms of lives and munitions for re-deployment.  Actually, the geopolitical fallout of losing our airports and military installations in Afghanistan puts the cost of continuing the withdrawal as planned, into the “higher than” column and any benefits of withdrawal are neutralized by the geopolitical hits sure to befall us.

At least there is a huge upside to inflicting serious damage on the Taliban today to prevent an existential crisis for America tomorrow. We not only save lives and recover whatever is left of our weapons, but lessen the potential for confrontation with Russia, China, and/or Iran; have airports and a forward operating base for potential conflicts as well as to aid allies in the region; prevent Afghanistan from becoming a vassal state of China to the detriment of America; and keep fanatical terrorists away from the homeland.  

Yes, it would be Afghanistan 2.0.  Yes, we’d be duplicating the last 20 years.  Yes, it would be costly and yes, it would be a crying shame to do this.  But, wouldn’t it be a bigger crying shame if we scurried away and became just another has-been superpower?  Did we learn nothing from Viet Nam? 

We can debate whether we should have invaded Afghanistan and stayed for 20 years in the first place.  But the facts on the ground suggest we at least consider the possibility of saving face and maintaining a presence in the region akin to that under Trump’s withdrawal plan, rather than Biden’s surrender plan. 

Without repeating the many mistakes including nation building, a military response might be the only way to save thousands of stranded lives, recover our weaponry, rehabilitate our badly-charred reputation, and re-establish American hegemony in the region.   

The Taliban might put a smiley face on the face of terror, but underneath that new and improved Taliban look, Sharia Law is the promised path of enslavement, abuse, Jihad, the Caliphate, and death to America. Resurrecting the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” is a throwback to the good old days of stadium decapitations, amputations, and stonings.  They will not rule with a light touch and the picture of the Badri 313 Battalion wearing American gear and raising the Taliban flag in the same fashion as troops raised Old Glory on Iwo Jima, says it all on their regard for us.

They are very much alive, nourished, organized, and armed, have America in their cross hairs, and have millions of friends flocking to their side.  After 20 years battling America, their thirst for revenge is likely unquenchable.

Why is it a zero-sum choice between extreme nation building, a Forever War, and a precipitous withdrawal when Trump showed us a way to strike the right balance?

We want the Forever War to end but we also know that the Taliban and Al Qaeda can be held off with only 2500 troops.  We’ve had a permanent presence in Germany and Japan since 1945 for stability and security.  If we clean up this debacle and, at some future date, decide a permanent presence in Afghanistan with 2500 troops is needed, would that be such a high price to pay for stability and security both in the region and at home? 

No one wants to start another war…but shouldn’t we at least finish the last one.

Photo via Google Earth

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