TURES COLUMN: Trump And Biden are both wrong about Afghanistan

Published 10:00 am Saturday, May 1, 2021

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President Biden’s Administration announced the U.S. would leave Afghanistan by Sept. 11, 2021. Republicans were quick to attack Biden’s plan, many conveniently forgetting that Trump pushed for a far-earlier withdrawal date, without the months of planning necessary for a smooth handoff, and not a 1975 Saigon-style pullout, complete with Huey helicopters.

But while both parties fight over the exact date of withdrawal, here’s what they should be focused on, and why it matters more than semantics and symbolism.

First, let’s agree that we’re not going to stay in Afghanistan until Kingdom Come. At some point, we are going to leave. And we need to plan for what a post-withdrawal Afghanistan should look like, instead of arguing about which date should be picked.

Second, yes, we do need to announce our withdrawal date. Our allies in Afghanistan who have fought and died alongside us, as well as civilians who believe in us, don’t deserve to be stabbed in the back for their support with us slipping away. It’ll smell a lot more like defeat if we scurry away in the night. And if you think we can sneak out of Afghanistan without the Taliban or Russian spies knowing it, you should rethink that near-impossibility.

Third, I don’t trust the Taliban any more than you do. We’re never going to have enough brave soldiers and Marines and pilots or even drone operators to take out every single one of them.  And I don’t support letting these terrorists who backed 9/11 into the government. Nor should our Afghan allies. So, we need to prepare for a post-Operation Enduring Freedom Taliban in Afghanistan. It will mean finding a way to train and supply the Afghan Army.

The Taliban have had since 2001 to realize their support of Al-Qaeda was a huge mistake, and they have no business supporting terrorism as a policy. But some folks never learn. They could have had us gone long ago, but are addicted to violence. They couldn’t even promise to renounce terrorism, or even give it up for a year or so, just to win back power. So, expect some terrorism from the Taliban. We have to decide now what we do about it, and communicate that policy to the rest of the world, especially our allies.

This means coordinating with world intelligence agencies to determine who is responsible for any attack within the same Zip Code as any Taliban, or if they’ve backed any foreign terror groups with local camps, which should be considered fair game under even the U.N.’s Article 51 for a drone strike or airstrike. And Russia needs to be told that we’ve got our eye on them just in case they feel the need to get a foothold in Afghanistan through supporting the Taliban. 

Fourth, we need to return to the era of former President George W. Bush’s “smart sanctions.”  Any plan to sanction the whole country of Afghanistan for anything the Taliban does, whether they are in power or not, makes no sense, and just hurts civilians. It’s a lot smarter to use our resources to figure out who the Taliban leaders do business with, and target those groups and firms as well, if they don’t severe those ties, the lifeblood of those Taliban terrorists.

We owe it to the Americans who served in the military over in Afghanistan, including students of mine and parents of them as well, to ensure that the country doesn’t turn into the terrorist haven it became after the Soviet withdrawal. And we’re going to get there by following these tough but necessary steps, instead of bickering about the actual withdrawal date for partisan gain.