by J. Pharoah Doss, For New Pittsburgh Courier
Last month, President Biden announced the “drawdown of U.S. military presence in Afghanistan” will be complete by Aug. 31. The commander-in-chief was asked if a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan was inevitable. Biden dismissed the concern by emphasizing the military advantage. Biden said the Afghan government had 300,000 well-equipped troops and an air force against 75,000 Taliban fighters.
On Aug. 15, headlines across the world stated: Afghanistan’s government collapsed as the Taliban overran the capital city. The next day, President Biden was forced to address the nation about the chaos in Afghanistan. Biden told the American people the following facts.
1). The United States entered Afghanistan after 9/11/2001 to make sure al Qaeda could not use Afghanistan as a base to stage terror attacks against the United States. The mission was not nation building, counterinsurgency, or creating a centralized democracy. U.S. forces dismantled al Qaeda in Afghanistan and killed Osama bin Laden. That was a decade ago. Today, the terrorist threat has metastasized well beyond Afghanistan, and these modern threats warrant the attention and resources of the United States.
2). The only vital national interest in Afghanistan remains today what it has always been – to prevent terrorist attacks on the American homeland. The United States conducts effective counterterrorism missions against terrorist groups in multiple countries where we don’t have a permanent military presence. The United States can do the same for Afghanistan.
Following President Biden’s address, H.R. McMaster, former national security advisor in the Trump administration, called the chaos in Afghanistan a foreign policy disaster and advocated for a permanent military presence in Afghanistan for the following reasons.
1). Afghanistan is a modern frontier between barbarism and civilization. U.S. troops were enabling the Afghans to take the fight to the enemies of civilization. It’s not an endless war, it’s an endless jihad the terrorists are waging against all of humanity.
2). The U.S. presence in Afghanistan was preserving the freedom the Afghans gained since U.S. forces toppled the Taliban in 2001, and the U.S. military presence kept the post-Taliban government from faltering.
McMasters reinforced his points by stating, U.S. soldiers are warriors, but U.S. soldiers are also humanitarians.
Here lies the confusion; are U.S. soldiers also humanitarians?
The conflation McMasters made is the underlining error of the 21st century. The notion that the U.S. military has a dual role – defending the national interest and achieving high-minded humanitarian goals – inverted the priorities of the Bush and Obama administrations. (Joe Biden was in opposition to how foreign policy was being conducted then.) The underlining error made the United States appear inept as military strategists and inconsistent as humanitarians.
Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign focused on the ineptness of American foreign policy. Stephen M. Walt wrote in his book, The Hell of Good Intentions, “Trump’s ‘America First’ rhetoric took dead aim at the grand strategy that had guided the foreign policies of the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations. Instead of viewing the United States as the ‘indispensable nation’ responsible for policing the globe, spreading democracy, and upholding a rules-based, liberal order, Trump was calling – however incoherently – for a foreign policy he claimed would make Americans stronger and richer at home and less committed, constrained, and bogged down abroad.”
However, Walt wrote, “The foreign policy revolution (Trump) promised back in 2016 remains unrealized.”
The one detail in President Biden’s national address that H.R. McMaster ignored. President Trump negotiated an agreement with the Taliban. Biden told the American people the choice he had to make was either to follow through on that agreement and withdraw U.S. forces or escalate the conflict into a third decade.
Regardless of the chaos in Afghanistan due to the American withdrawal and the inevitable consequences, President Biden remembered the dictum of General MacArthur – war’s very object is victory, not prolonged indecision, and after decades President Biden decided U.S. soldiers were not humanitarians.
President Biden’s decision might not have ended “endless wars,” but it ended an underlining error in foreign policy.