Stories of Afghans Left Behind Will Hurt America around the World
August 18, 2021
This commentary was originally published in The Hill on August 18, 2021.
Events this week in Afghanistan create many uncertainties: Will terrorists again attack Americans from an Afghan base? Will narcotics exports increase? Will humanitarian conditions deteriorate? One thing is certain, though: in the months and years ahead, we will hear countless heartrending stories of Afghans whom the United States inspired to give everything to transform their country into a modern, tolerant, vibrant state—until the United States withdrew and they lost everything.
In the coming days, Washington experts will debate military tasks that weren’t accomplished or are left to be done; they will explore intelligence failures and engage in self-criticism about the inadequacy of civilian agencies. These debates will matter for Washington, but they won’t matter much for the world. The stories that will resonate overseas are the stories of Afghans who once cast their lot with the United States and now find themselves cast aside. Their stories will give pause to U.S. allies, and they will provoke future friends to hedge their bets. From Tehran to Hong Kong, from Caracas to Moscow, people who seek to remake their societies will read the stories carefully and internalize them, and their behavior will change.