Ethics & Public Policy Center

Biden Made the Tough, Correct Call on Afghanistan

Published in The Washington Post on April 14, 2021


President Biden’s announcement that the United States will unconditionally withdraw its military forces from Afghanistan by Sept. 11 reflects a regrettable reality, but it is the right decision.

The United States invaded Afghanistan on Oct. 7, 2001, because the Taliban government had allowed its territory to be used by the Islamist terrorist group al-Qaeda to launch the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington. That response was right: The United States had to bring the war home to the attackers. Along with our NATO allies, we were able to cripple al-Qaeda and show other nations that if they connived with terrorists, the United States would not tolerate their covert encouragement of our open enemies.

Twenty years later, the Taliban no longer controls the government, but the United States is still at war with the Taliban. We have tried a variety of strategies, including a surge of military forces in 2009 that was supposed to stop Taliban fighters operating from bases in neighboring Pakistan. None have worked. The Taliban remains a persistent power, drawing succor from its core support group, ethnic Pashtuns in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Moreover, they have consistently held the strategic initiative because the U.S. forces cannot — or will not — cross the Pakistani border to eliminate the bases the insurgents retreat to. They thus control the war’s flow, ramping up attacks or lowering them according to their designs. The United States cannot win under those conditions; it can only create a stalemate preventing the Taliban from toppling the weak Afghan central government we have supported in Kabul.

Click here to read the rest of this piece at the Washington Post’s website

Henry Olsen is a Washington Post columnist and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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