Seeing members of the Taliban reclaim their oppressive rule in Afghanistan has proven very disturbing for many Americans.

We devoted nearly 20 years fighting the Taliban and al-Qaida to ensure Afghanistan no longer served as a site to plan and execute terrorist activities. We spent more than $2 trillion to help the government there transform the nation into a functioning society and train its military to defend Afghan citizens against those who oppose democracy.

This is particularly relevant to those of us in Northern New York. Soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum were among the first to be deployed to Afghanistan as a response to the terrorist attacks against the United States on Sept. 11, 2001 — and they are still there protecting people from the Taliban’s tyranny.

When President Joe Biden began withdrawing U.S. troops after two decades there, everything we had accomplished unraveled. Afghan troops weren’t able to put up an adequate resistance to the Taliban’s attacks.

One province after another fell. Finally, the Taliban took control of Kabul.

This forced those staffing the U.S. Embassy to destroy any records they could and prepare to leave. Many people compared it to the April 1975 fall of Saigon, which served as the capital of South Vietnam.

No one wanted to see the United States suffer another humiliating defeat on the international stage. And the thought of so many Americans and Afghan allies trapped by the Taliban was frightening.

Biden finds it difficult admitting that his administration made serious mistakes in planning for the evacuation of all those who wanted to leave. The fact that government officials had to increase the number of troops in Afghanistan to get everyone out safely after they decreased our presence there showed they failed to anticipate such a rapid collapse.

Many people who wanted to leave Afghanistan had a hard time arriving at the airport and then making their way to the proper site for departure. Biden said members of the military will do whatever it takes to ensure they get out safely.

It’s good to know this commitment has been made. But it’s obvious that Biden needed to improvise some parts of this plan. These logistics should have been worked out and put into effect beforehand.

That being said, evacuation efforts have ramped up significantly. More than 28,000 have been flown out so far.

While we need to acknowledge the errors that have been committed, it would too easy to place all the blame for the Taliban takeover on Biden. Even with the best of planning, wars can become chaotic at any moment. This has been a complicated endeavor from the beginning.

What started as a mission to dismantle the terrorist apparatus in Afghanistan soon turned into an exercise in nation-building. This certainly was a noble goal.

But the 20 years we’ve needed to prop up the government and augment the military showed it was likely never going to succeed. Regardless, this unrealistic objective was begun by former President George W. Bush and continued by former President Barack Obama.

Many people were alarmed there was a backlog in processing Afghans for entry into the United States. Once again, Biden took much of the criticism for this.

But members of the Trump administration hindered efforts carry out the Special Immigrant Visa program. This reflected the anti-immigrant mentality that permeated the White House when former President Donald Trump was in office.

The future for those left in Afghanistan is bleak, and it’s heartbreaking to see what is occurring. But we couldn’t stay there forever. Our focus now must be on supporting the Afghan people as much as possible and making sure this country doesn’t revert to a terrorist haven.

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(5) comments

HotelMike

Cowardice on world display. Thanks, democrats.

She's back

It is important to remember that the draw down of troops and abandonment of military bases was well underway before Biden was even ever elected. Trump's disastrous "peace agreement" ( all of 4 pages long) was made with the Taliban without ANY input from the then Afghan government. And if you read it, it Clearly presumes that the Government of the future Afghanistan would be (at least in part) Islamic controlled i.e. the Taliban.

On Feb 29 2020 Trump promised the Taliban that by May 2021 all U.S. and allied military forces would be gone and ALL U.S. military bases closed in Afghanistan . He also promised that all political prisoners held by the Afghan Government would be released! ( but the Taliban was to make sure these Isis and al Qaeda boys act nice?).

Most troops had already been removed by the time Biden took office. There were few troops left to do any planning procedures with .

While the agreement has some verbiage about removing civilian contractors, trainers etc. , I am not sure if there had been any follow through or planning from the PREVIOUS administration to extract these Americans and allies.

The Taliban had been holding and taking territories even before the deal with Trump and they did not case after the deal. It was not as sudden as it appeared. Although the final fall was indeed swift As the Afghan's put up little or no resistance. Check your timeline please!

Worth reading how Trump surrendered Afghanistan to the Taliban long ago.

https://www.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Agreement-For-Bringing-Peace-to-Afghanistan-02.29.20.pdf

KRobbins

Thank you for an even-handed and fair editorial. I’m very sad for the people of Afghanistan who are going to be oppressed by the Taliban. I can look around the world and find dozens of countries to feel the same sadness for their citizens to a greater or lesser extent than I do those in Afghanistan, though.

hermit thrush

biden deserves a lot of credit for following through on ending the war. trump also deserves credit for getting the withdrawal process started.

rdsouth

I’m disgusted with the press. They’ve created a media frenzy and virtually crucified Biden without bothering to analyze the no-win situation he inherited from Trump. Trump and Pompeo basically surrendered to the Taliban. They set an arbitrary date for complete withdrawal of 5/1 with no exit plan, left a paltry 2500 US troops there (which allowed the Taliban to take substantial rural territory), released 5000 Taliban prisoners, then proceeded to sabotage the SIV process so that Afghans who helped the US could not leave Afghanistan. Biden had very little negotiating power with the Taliban as a result, but he did manage to extend the withdrawal to 8/31. Meanwhile, Congress took their sweet time approving changes to streamline the SIV process, which didn’t happen until late July. To top it all off, Biden was clearly ill-advised by the majority of the military and intelligence advisors who gave him the impression that the Afghan forces would hold out for at least a few weeks. Poor intelligence and terrible options - any president would have experienced much the same outcome. That’s why none of the previous presidents withdrew. At least Biden had the guts and honor to do it. In addition, the press seem ignorant of the fact that there are over 4 million people in Kabul. So yeah, a few thousand were inevitably going to show up at the airport in a desperate panic to leave the country regardless of when and how we withdrew.

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