By Ziv Carmi, Contributing Writer
For the past few weeks, Americans have been watching the events unfolding in Afghanistan. Perhaps some felt shock, others horror. The botched American withdrawal from Afghanistan was an avoidable foreign policy failure on the behalf of Joe Biden and his administration, and the effects of this disaster will reverberate both at home and abroad for years to come.
After 20 years, it seems that the sentiments about ending American involvement in Afghanistan is one of the few things that both parties agree upon these days. However, the White House’s approach to the withdrawal was catastrophic. Instead of abandoning Bagram Airbase before evacuating American civilians and our Afghan allies, Biden should have maintained an American military presence there as a deterrent for the Taliban. While the Taliban might still have ultimately taken Afghanistan, this approach could have, at least, bought America enough time to evacuate our citizens and allies.
The abandonment of Afghan allies is, without question, one of the most tragic parts of this disastrous withdrawal. As Kabul fell this summer, a friend of mine told me how her brother received a message from an Afghan translator he had worked with and befriended during his service there. I do not exactly remember what it said, but the gist of it was that he felt betrayed by the American government, who had promised him better, and that he feared for his wife and children’s safety after the Taliban killed him. As I write this, I cannot help but wonder if this translator, like thousands of other brave Afghans who helped America, has been brutally murdered by the Taliban.
The deaths of our allies, as well as the 13 soldiers who died at Kabul Airport, were avoidable. Had American leaders prepared for a Taliban surge, it is possible that the withdrawal could have been far smoother. Indeed, as recently as July 8, less than a month before the collapse of Afghanistan, Joe Biden is on record saying that “a Taliban takeover [of Afghanistan] is not inevitable” and that “there’s going to be no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of [the American Embassy in Kabul].” While, of course, hindsight is 20/20, statements like Biden’s seem to indicate that the administration did not plan for the worst (and indeed, the reference to the helicopter evacuating the American Embassy does seem ironically prophetic).
While the loss of life is without a doubt the worst ramification of this messy and chaotic withdrawal, the abandonment of American weapons to the Taliban is one of the other terrible consequences. Leaving such powerful military equipment in the hands of our enemies may have dire ramifications in the future. These weapons might be used against America or our allies in the region, something which could take more innocent lives and, perhaps, draw us into another extended conflict in the region.
With this in mind, veterans might wonder whether what they endured in Afghanistan was worth it; gold star families might be feeling that their loss was for naught. I would like to conclude this editorial by speaking directly to any veterans or gold star families who might be reading this. Your sacrifices were not in vain. No matter how poorly the withdrawal was handled, one thing remains clear: The men and women who served in Afghanistan were all heroes. And no matter how history remembers the end of the war in Afghanistan, we will, to borrow from Abraham Lincoln, long remember the men and women—your comrades, your siblings, your children, your parents—who gave everything for America during this conflict.
This article originally appeared on page 9 of the September 24, 2021 edition of The Gettysburgian’s magazine. It appeared alongside Vanessa Igras’s piece “An End to the Western Occupation in Afghanistan.”