Well before the final withdrawal, it was clear the Afghanistan War was off the rails.
The original purpose for the military action was long ago accomplished – the Taliban were removed and al-Qaida went into the mountains. The engagement after the 2003 Iraq invasion lost attention and support in the U.S. government, and by the end, 17 years later, it violated most of the stated principles of the Weinberger and Powell doctrines on committing American troops. For example, for at least a decade, there was no clear purpose, while the Taliban were making progress in the countryside in spite of two surges under two presidents in 2009 and 2017. Also, the American people withdrew support and believed the war had not accomplished its goals and was not worth it.
Neither strategy of training and arming the Afghan forces nor the amount of American resources were sufficient or misspent. The engagement was less costly than Vietnam in American lives, but took a high toll on Afghan lives, American resources and international respect, which was mostly wasted, is much needed in today’s dangerous world.
Like Vietnam, there should be a major examination of the conduct of the war, including the strategic and tactical assumptions, the implementation, and the value of high-level recommendations to political leaders. Intelligence, which appeared especially faulty, needs a major review.
|Smoke billows from one of the towers of the World Trade Center as flames|
& debris explode from second tower, Sept. 11, 2001 | Chao Soi Cheong/AP
|U.S. Marines assist with security at an evacuation control checkpoint during|
an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan,
August 20, 2021 | Staff Sgt. Victor Mancilla/US Marine Corps via AP