Analysis & Comment

Opinion | The U.S. in Afghanistan: A Mess With ‘No Good Outcomes’

To the Editor:

Re “Taliban Capture Kabul, Stunning U.S. as a 20-Year Effort Unravels in Days” (front page, Aug. 16):

The Afghan war began 20 years ago, and the United States persisted through four presidents. President Biden pulled the plug on the whole sorry mess. One could argue that he could have managed the withdrawal differently. I say he managed it honestly.

Perhaps we could have drawn troops down more slowly, protected the Kabul airport longer and put a better face on the rout of Afghan government forces. But the end result would have been hardly any different.

The Taliban are a ruthless, barbaric force. But their awfulness does not justify perpetuating futility. Donald Trump negotiated a withdrawal, and had he presided over it the result would have been much the same, differing only in the way he would have responded to it.

Nevertheless, Mr. Biden’s putting some blame on Mr. Trump was a mistake; he ought to have given him credit for starting the withdrawal process. But Mr. Biden was absolutely right to stand by his own decision, a brave and principled one. And if I can see terrible suffering as a result, I can only imagine its being worse had we futilely prolonged our stay. Joe Biden did the right thing, despite the likely political costs.

Gordon Whitehead
Hebo, Ore.

To the Editor:

After withdrawing American citizens and Afghans and their families who have helped the American effort in their country, the United States must issue a warning to the Taliban. If they let Al Qaeda and ISIS reconstitute in Afghanistan, in contravention of terms of the agreement with the Trump administration, and continue to murder and rape their own people there will be hell to pay.

The United States must not announce what steps it would take, but the message must be clear. And that message must come from President Biden himself.

Cesar Fernando Lumba
Las Vegas

To the Editor:

Wait! I am confused. I thought we spent two decades mentoring the Afghans to defend their own country. And yet it took the Taliban just two weeks to take over. What are we telling the men and women who went over there on repeated tours of duty to “mentor” and the families who lost a husband, wife or child in those decades? Oops? When the hell are we going to learn?

Theresa Cullen
Athens, Ga.

To the Editor:

Secretary of State Antony Blinken keeps repeating his mantra: Keeping troops in Afghanistan is not in our “national interest.” Really? Is it really not in our national interest to prevent the girls we spent years helping to educate and who are now flourishing in various careers from sliding back into being sex slaves for men who will beat them and utterly control their lives?

In the United States the slightest grope warrants a strong response from #MeToo, but when women in another country are brutally persecuted, it is evidently not in our “national interest” to do anything.

Marjorie Perloff
Pacific Palisades, Calif.

To the Editor:

President Biden inherited a situation in Afghanistan that had no good outcomes. Our history of failed occupations reveals that you cannot just import American-style democracy, let alone reshape a tribal-based culture. I admire that President Biden had the courage to withdraw our troops from Afghanistan and marvel that anyone thought the outcome would be different than total Taliban control.

I know that the Republicans will use this as a sign of failure or poor judgment, but I do not see it as a defeat — just a cleareyed response to a no-win situation.

I am heartbroken as to what this means for girls and women there, but we could not continue our presence there forever. Now, though, we must honor our commitment to those who helped us and speedily allow them to emigrate to the United States.

Adriane S. Levy
San Diego

To the Editor:

It is time to demand that Congress authorize an independent investigation into the Afghan conflict. The purpose should be to determine what failures occurred over the past 20 years and should not be punitive.

As a citizen who has helped fund the over $2 trillion cost of the war, watched as thousands of service members died and devoted a year of my own life in Afghanistan, I expect my government to take actions to learn lessons from this endeavor. We must not repeat this failure.

Daniel Nichols
Springfield, Va.

To the Editor:

Our total retreat from Afghanistan was wrong. A residual force, the one we have dismantled now, was the linchpin that held the country together and free from Taliban control. We were the third leg on the stool.

We maintain a presence in dozens of countries around the world, none of them so tenuous as Afghanistan. We left the one that perhaps needed us most.

Phil Serpico
Kew Gardens, Queens

To the Editor:

Leaving behind many of the translators, interpreters and other Afghans who provided support for U.S. troops is a travesty, and as a country we should be ashamed.

Back in 2014, when Joe Biden was vice president and I was on the board of directors of the largest national translator and interpreter organization in the United States, our organization was already urging the Obama administration to increase the number of visas for translators and interpreters because of the dangers to them back then. How much worse it will be now if we callously abandon these people to whatever fate the Taliban has in store for them.

According to some sources there still remain up to 70,000 Afghan interpreters and their families to be rescued.

Lois Feuerle
Portland, Ore.

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