On October 7th, 2001, President Bush sent troops into Afghanistan searching for revenge against Al Qaida for the 9/11 attacks. It took us over a decade to find Osama Bin Laden, but we did find him. Navy Seals invaded his compound in Pakistan and put a bullet in his head 10 years ago. The threat of terrorism we were facing in many ways became much stronger after Bin Laden died. Not only was he a martyr, but the United States lost its moral authority to be in Afghanistan and Pakistan after he died.
His death wasn’t enough for us though. The U.S. government didn’t just want to defeat the immediate threat, we wanted to erase this man’s way of thinking all together. I wish we could erase his kind of thinking as well, but the past 20 years in Afghanistan have demonstrated to me more than anything else that you cannot kill ideology. If there is a way to fix a person like that, it must not be force. Go figure.
On August 31, 2021 President Biden directed the remaining U.S. Military force in Afghanistan to evacuate the country. There were plenty of good reasons for the U.S. military to remain in Afghanistan. Defending the innocent American-allied Afghani citizens for one thing. At the end of the day though the problems in Afghanistan are not something that our government seems capable of solving. People need to evolve their way of thinking on their own.
The Biden administration had to do this. There was no other choice. Whether it could have been done more elegantly or not is a debate I would certainly entertain, but we had to leave either way. It was not in America’s interests to stay there. It was a mistake to go there in the first place. It started as a manhunt for terrorists. Since Osama Bin Laden died it has been an extraordinarily expensive rescue mission doomed to fail from the start. The United States military is not omnipotent. They can’t save everyone unfortunately and the federal government can’t even afford to try anymore. In part due to wasteful military spending in Afghanistan, federal deficit spending is approaching its upper limit and budgets are going to have to be cut.
Its no longer about the “at what cost” in terms of lives. Now its more like “at what cost” in terms of the national piggy bank. Shared between the Department of Defense, the State Department, the Agency for International Development (USAID), and other government agencies, The United States Treasury doled out $822 billion between 2001 and 2019 just in Afghanistan! Better estimations which include expenditures from debt interest owed and military benefits for veterans overtime make the picture even worse. Accounting for all direct and indirect spending, overall expenditures in Afghanistan amount to a whopping $2 trillion.
Fixing Afghanistan is and will always be a futile effort. We have some problems here at home that such large amounts of cash might actually help to fix so I am very excited that that money can now be put to good use elsewhere. With that said, our departure comes with immeasurable sacrifice.
47,000 citizens were killed in the crossfire between the United States and the militant groups of Afghanistan while we were there. Would those lives have been lost even if we never got involved? Very possibly. But the blood wouldn’t be on our hands. Now we are having to leave our allies behind and watch as they suffer. Much of their suffering will be as punishment for associating with the United States. So if we had never gone over their in the first place, they would not now have to be regretting accepting our friendship.
This is how afraid our allies in Afghanistan are as we leave their country.
One man managed to hang on until the plane took off. But as you might suspect, it didn’t end well.