The disaster unfolding in Afghanistan ("Kabul is gripped in panic," front page, Aug. 16) resulting from President Joe Biden's hasty withdrawal of American troops brings to mind what Robert Gates, secretary of defense under Barack Obama, wrote in 2014: "I think [Biden] has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades." Well, that inglorious streak continues, as we hear reports of chaos among those trying to escape Taliban vengeance, including reports of the beheading of Afghan men who helped our troops and of young girls being forced into sexual slavery.
Getting out of Afghanistan after 20 years may have been appropriate, but doing so without securing the safety of Americans still trapped there and Afghan citizens who are at risk was a monumentally poor decision. Why the rush? Our commitment to that country has been minimal for some time. The small force of a few thousand troops that was maintaining order is less than the number of troops we have in other countries, and there has not been a single American combat death in 18 months.
Only two possible explanations come to mind — our president didn't care, or he didn't appreciate the situation. Either way, his decision will be a stain on our country that will last for some time, and will no doubt damage our standing in the eyes of our allies that depend on us for protection.
Ronald Haskvitz, Golden Valley
Afghanistan, a country of around 37 million people, can't defend itself against an enemy force estimated to be in the tens of thousands. After 20 years of the U.S. and other allies spending over $2 trillion there, according to the Costs of War Project, including training and equipping their military forces, the Afghan military is apparently dropping its weapons and fleeing in the face of an invasion of thugs on pickup trucks. Sadly, there will be plenty of victims, especially women and others who supported the government and its allies.
I am a Vietnam vet, and at least in that war, the South Vietnamese Army put up a fight, but eventually lost to overwhelming force. Now Afghanistan wants to blame the U.S. and others for abandoning them after spending 20 years of getting their hopes up. They apparently never learned the lesson that if you want freedom, you have to fight for it, not just hope someone else will come in and do it for you.
Dave Price, Edina
Nearly 20 years of the U.S. having troops in Afghanistan. Trillion of dollars spent, over 2,400 U.S. service members killed.
The result: disaster. As the U.S. pulls out, the Afghan government we have been supporting has collapsed. This needs very careful study. What have the CIA, the armed forces and the State Department recommended? Have our politicians known this was inevitable and kept the country in the dark, or are humans unable to accurately evaluate the political and social situation in a foreign country? The disaster in Afghanistan comes after a disaster in Vietnam. My concern is our political situation in the U.S. may not allow us to make an honest assessment of foreign issues. Are we doomed to repeat such mistakes? Although it will be painful we need to evaluate this problem honestly and thoroughly. Failure to learn from this mess will lead to further disasters.
Mark Brakke, Coon Rapids
The New York Times article reprinted on the front page of the Star Tribune says, "The president made it clear: He wanted out" (Aug. 16). Former President Donald Trump wanted out, but with conditions. President Joe Biden, on the other hand, wanted simply to walk out. He has squandered 20 years of effort, blood and treasure. I can imagine what the Gold Star parents are thinking now. Add the Southern border, the subsequent pipeline cancellation, the cancellation of sanctions on the Russian pipeline and the "request" to OPEC for additional supply while ignoring our capability here at home, and you have the worst president in American history after just seven months. I dread what the future brings under Biden.
Tom Shelton, New Brighton
I was astonished when the U.S. began war against Afghanistan. Wouldn't it have made legal sense to investigate, locate and apprehend those living conspirators who were responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks and try them in criminal court? Wasn't it true that several of the perpetrators were Saudi?
Today I'm remembering a 2008 statement attributed to a former Soviet soldier, Igor Grigorevich, who served during the USSR's war in Afghanistan: "It's impossible to conquer the Afghans ... Alexander the Great couldn't do it, the British couldn't do it, we couldn't do it and the Americans won't do it ... no one can."
Lucia Wilkes Smith, St. Louis Park
Media reports on events in Afghanistan are littered with the word "mistake" as officials attempt to lay blame for the chaos. Yet none have had the courage to suggest the first mistake was invading the country in 2001.
From the beginning Americans have been lied to. Osama bin Laden could have been apprehended without going to war. Several European allies urged the U.S. to use international policing and intelligence services to dismantle al-Qaida. Instead, the invasion of Afghanistan and subsequently that of Iraq sparked a dramatic increase in terrorist organizations. Each military and regime-change adventure — Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya — have ended in disaster.
After 9/11, the slogan "Not in our name" resonated throughout the small U.S. peace movement. However, the vast number of Americans supported the invasion. Yet, wisely, within a few years, Americans began to rethink this decision. Four successive governments and military and intelligence leaders did not. Biden is correct; Americans want an end to endless wars. We are tired of war and tired of being lied to. We need to tell Biden, Congress, military leaders and arms manufacturers that never again will we tolerate any more covert or overt military adventures. We demand a peaceful foreign policy, one based on diplomacy, treaties, noninterference and respect for self-determination.
Wayne A. Nealis, Minneapolis
We armed the wrong Afghans. Apparently the Afghan men either favor the Taliban or haven't the nerve to oppose them. More likely the former. The Afghans fought everyone who came along, from Alexander the Great to the USSR. And whenever they weren't fighting foreigners, they were fighting each other, just for practice.
We should have armed the people who had the most to lose from a Talibans takeover: the Afghan women. Give them M-16s, RPGs and training, and train them to blast to Hades any male who gives them one gram of grief, whether they be a Taliban thug, mullah, clan elder, older male relative or anyone at all who gives them grief. The only way you can reason with any would-be tyrant is to blow his head off. Anyone who says otherwise is deluding himself. Period, end of discussion.
Joe Smith, Minneapolis
In response to Saturday's Rash Report on the comparisons of Afghanistan to Vietnam ("In Kabul, shadows of Saigon," Aug. 14), I offer this remarkably germane quote from T.E. Lawrence, also known as Lawrence of Arabia, who had more than his fill of experience with the Mideast: "An opinion can be argued with; a conviction is best shot. The logical end of a war of creeds is the final destruction of one ... ." There was no defeating the Taliban short of its complete extermination, something for which the U.S. had neither the stomach or the political will. The Taliban knew it could beat us the same way the mujahideen beat the Soviets: It just had to wait us out. Any hope of a negotiated settlement with these people was a fantasy. Religious zealots or any fanatics willing to die for their cause will give no quarter and should be given no quarter — which is why to finally end World War II, we had to drop an atomic bomb on Japan. We no longer have that option, which you would think would give us pause before engaging in civil wars a half a planet away that don't have any meaningful impact on our national security. The Mideast is a nightmare of its own making. That we spent so many lives and a mountain of treasure trying to save these people from themselves is a crime in and of itself. Will we ever learn?
Thom Jesberg, East Bethel
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