On Afghanistan

I don’t know a Goddamn thing about Afghanistan.

Well, okay, that’s not quite true. I probably know more about Afghanistan than most Americans. But that is a perilously low bar, and does not really imply anything worth bragging about, and if the bar is not compared to other Americans but is my knowledge of this country useful or sufficient, well … it ain’t, on either count.

I saw someone suggest on Twitter earlier today that the one thing we could have done to avoid what’s going on right now in Afghanistan would have been to elect Al Gore in 2000, and I have some sympathy for that argument. I saw another that suggested that Biden has simply decided to be the President who takes the hit for a result that was going to be inevitable whenever we decided to leave, and that the main thing the policies of the Presidents between him and Dubya have done has been kicking the can down the road so that the disaster after the withdrawal was someone else’s problem.

We have been in Afghanistan nearly half my life. The Taliban has simply … waited. They are more patient than us. They always have been. No matter which President chose to leave, the Taliban were still going to be there, waiting. And I don’t think that the regular Afghans were especially happy to have us there either. One way or another, they were still going to be there when we left.

I do, however, feel like it’s not unreasonable to suggest that maybe, just maybe, we should have done something more to help those who helped us. America should have been welcoming of Afghan refugees for decades, and we haven’t, and I have to believe that the number of people we’re looking to evacuate– I’m seeing the number 3500– is sorely insufficient. There are apparently just short of 100,000 Afghans in the United States right now. I feel like after 20 years of occupying their country that seems like a very small number.

We spent two trillion dollars and lost over six thousand soldiers there in twenty years, and in the end it was for nothing. We probably shouldn’t have been there in the first place, or maybe we should have just kept paying attention after we got there— Afghanistan has always been our forgotten war even just after it started, when our attention immediately turned to Iraq. I don’t know. I don’t know how things could have gone better. I’m not sure how they could have gone much worse, either.

I suppose we’re about to find out what the results of 20 years of shitty policy looks like one way or another.

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Luther M. Siler

The author of SKYLIGHTS, THE BENEVOLENCE ARCHIVES and several other books.

2 thoughts on “On Afghanistan

  1. I was listening an interview on BBC yesterday with an Afghan interpreter who was trying to hide while the Taliban was about to come through. He had a place to stay that night but after that, if he was caught, he would have his head cut off. Literally beheaded. And this is a man who risked his life for America and he gets death for doing that.

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