Afghan War: Twenty Years For Nothing
Our last-ditch airstrikes only postpone the inevitable.
WSJ (“U.S. Intensifies Airstrikes in Afghanistan as Taliban Offensive Nears Kandahar“):
The U.S. has stepped up airstrikes in southern Afghanistan amid growing apprehension over a Taliban offensive threatening Kandahar, the country’s second-largest city and spiritual capital of the Taliban movement.
The fall of Kandahar would deal a heavy blow to the U.S.-backed government in Kabul, which is trying to impart calm to its citizens as the Taliban has seized swaths of the countryside, but so far failed to take a major city.
The airstrikes, about a dozen in recent days, point to a continuing role for the U.S. military in Afghanistan, despite confidence expressed by President Biden and the Pentagon that the Afghan armed forces are well-equipped and ready to fight the Taliban on their own. U.S. forces are due to depart Afghanistan by the end of August.
Kandahar, population 600,000, was home to deceased Taliban leader Mullah Omar, and host to key military bases once maintained by the U.S. It is also a major economic prize.
The Taliban have advanced dozens of miles toward Kandahar city in recent weeks, squeezing it from three directions, capturing swaths of territory in the Panjwai and Arghandab valleys, places where foreign troops fought for decades to keep the Taliban at bay.
From the west, Taliban fighters now are within 2 miles of a base once used by the Central Intelligence Agency to train Afghan special forces, who now occupy the facility, according to residents reached by telephone in Kandahar.
Residents said the Taliban push from the south threatens to cut off the main road between the city and Kandahar Air Field, a one-time bastion of U.S. air power during the 20-year war. The U.S. turned the base over to the Afghan National Army last month.
In an impromptu visit to Kabul, the top U.S. military commander in charge of the Middle East and Afghanistan, Gen. Frank McKenzie, met Sunday with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his top security officials to discuss Afghanistan’s defense plans and to reassure them of U.S. support.
Gen. McKenzie told reporters after the meeting that the U.S. had increased the number of airstrikes against the Taliban in the past few days, and was prepared to continue if the Taliban offensive continues.
Gen. McKenzie called the battle for Kandahar “a tough fight” and said the city was critical for both sides. “I think the issue is still in doubt, but Kandahar has not fallen,” he said.
Given that we’ve spent nearly two decades building up an Afghan security structure modeled after our own, and therefore unsustainable by a poor, developing country, it’s only right that we continue air support to give them a fighting chance. But it appears for all the world that we’re just trying to forestall the inevitable until the last of our ground troops have departed. Indeed, we’re barely making it a secret:
The U.S. military has sought to dial back on strikes against the Taliban before Aug. 31. After that, White House officials have said they would retain the right to strike al Qaeda or other groups only if they pose a threat to the U.S.
If we keep to that, the Taliban will be back in charge by Christmas, if not Halloween.
The United States has lost 2,354 dead in the direct fighting and untold numbers physically maimed and/or psychologically injured and countless marriages ruined for, well, nothing. Of those, only 7 were in 2001 in the immediate response to the 9/11 attacks. Just another 30 came by the end of 2002. The heaviest losses came between 2005 and 2013, during which time it became rather obvious that a democratic Afghanistan able to control the whole territory and stave off the Taliban on their own was unachievable at a price the United States and its dwindling number of allies in the fight were willing to pay.