The Fall Of Kabul Proves Joe Biden Was Right

Afghanistan has fallen to the Taliban. But that doesn’t make Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw American troops wrong.

Taliban fighters inside the Afghan presidential palace after capturing Kabul. (AP/Zabi Karimi)

If anything, it does the exact opposite.

America Did Everything it Could

There’s this notion going on that the United States has failed to sufficiently defend Afghanistan from the Taliban. This is utterly false, and if anything, the United States has provided way more than they needed to.

The Taliban are a relatively weak group of guerilla fighters. There are only about 75,000 of them, and their annual income has been estimated to be anywhere from $400 million to $1.5 billion. If you are generous and take the largest estimate and assume they’ve made that much money in the 20 years out of power, the Taliban has made a total of $30 billion over the past two decades. And note that that money goes toward more than just military equipment and training.

On the other hand, the United States trained 300,000 Afghan soldiers, meaning they outnumbered the Taliban 4-to-1. And they were given $90 billion of American funding, which is at the very least 3 times as much as the Taliban.

If we provided this much help for 20 years, and the Afghan military still collapsed within a few weeks, then it’s obvious that this was inevitable. We could have stayed for another 20 years, and the moment we left, the Taliban would take over. The only real solution, if eliminating the Taliban is your goal, is to stay there forever. And that is something nobody wants.

A comparison of land control in Afghanistan between July 9, 2021 (left) and August 16, 2021 (right). (BBC)

This is Just like Vietnam

This is a photo that has circulated quite a lot on the internet in recent days. It compares the American evacuation from South Vietnam during the Fall of Saigon in 1975 to the evacuation from Afghanistan during the Fall of Kabul in 2021.

The US abandoning Saigon in 1975. (Getty Images)
The US abandoning Kabul in 2021. (AFP)

And I agree that these two events are very similar. Which is why I am bewildered to see people derive completely different conclusions from them.

To most Americans, the Fall of Saigon was proof that the Vietnam War was a waste of time, money, and lives. Obviously, there is hindsight bias present, as before the war most would have expected it to turn out like Korea, with the South Vietnamese at least reaching a stalemate. Regardless, most Americans interpreted the Fall of Saigon as evidence that North Vietnamese were always going to win, so we never should have bothered fighting in the war.

Yet, it seems to me that a completely different conclusion is being derived from the Fall of Kabul. Politicians, both Democratic and Republicans, are blaming Biden for the withdrawal and urging American forces to return, so that we can finally finish off the Taliban for good. As I previously mentioned, the United States has already provided a lot to build a suitable military for Afghanistan. Considering how quickly the Afghan military collapsed, it’s hard to imagine they will ever defeat the Taliban. That leaves us with a choice of staying forever, or cutting our losses and leaving now. It’s hard to disagree with the latter, especially if you’ve learned from the mistakes of Vietnam.

Diplomacy is the Answer

The option of diplomacy has been almost entirely ignored in the context of Afghanistan. This presumably has to do with the policy of not negotiating with terrorists. But this policy has already been broken in the past-after all we did negotiate a peace deal with the Taliban.

Furthermore, some of America’s major foreign policy victories involved both the military and diplomacy. Almost everyone agrees that NATO was correct to intervene in the Yugoslav Wars during the 1990s. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia was committing Genocide, while they were committing ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. After NATO used its military might to cripple the Serbs, a peaceful agreement was reached for Bosnia through the Dayton Accords, and in Kosovo through the Kumanovo Agreement. Kosovo in particular is a great example of intervention done right.

The United States has many means by which it can pressure the Taliban without using violence. Sanctions are the most obvious, and they were used quite successfully against Apartheid South Africa. We can also try to negotiate a way for us to get people out of Afghanistan. Right now, the only way to get out is to reach the Kabul airport without being caught by the Taliban.

Imperfect Withdrawal

Speaking of getting people out, this is an area where the United States has failed. Currently, there are thousands of Americans trapped in Afghanistan as they were unable to get to the airport in time. Letting American citizens suffer under Taliban rule is absolutely unacceptable. And that’s why I think diplomacy is essential. The Taliban aren’t just going to let Americans leave. Whether you like it or not, the only way to protect our compatriots is to negotiate with the terrorists.

Another group of vulnerable people are the Afghans who aided the US during our war effort. These people will almost certainly be slaughtered by the Taliban for aiding what they consider to be the enemy. Not only is leaving them behind incredibly immoral, it destroys America’s reputation. We’ve already betrayed the Kurds numerous times in the past. If we keep doing this, we’re going to lose all of our allies.

And we can’t forget that many of the Afghans who didn’t help us will suffer under Taliban rule. The most obvious are the women and girls who already suffered the last time the Taliban ran the country. Furthermore, as a theocratic group, there is no guarantee that Shias, Christians, Muslims, or Sikhs will be protected.

But the fact that the withdrawal was imperfect does not make the act of withdrawing itself wrong. Especially, when the only other option was to stay there indefinitely.

Of course, that’s just my opinion. I’d love to hear from you in the comment section. If you enjoyed this post, share it with your friends and colleagues. And if you’d like to see more from me, follow me right here on Medium.

Originally published at https://aarav-nair.com on August 20, 2021.

High School Senior, Lifelong Learner