We All Lost Afghanistan
This article was originally published by the Foreign Affairs on August 16, 2021.
As Afghanistan tumbles into Taliban hands, the avalanche of recrimination and outright condemnation of the Biden administration’s withdrawal of U.S. troops in Afghanistan has become unrelenting. Former national security adviser General H. R. McMaster echoed the sentiments of many when he declared that Afghanistan is a “humanity problem on a modern-day frontier between barbarism and civilization” and that the United States lacks the will “to continue the effort in the interest of all humanity.”
What is happening is a terrible tragedy, but the blame cannot be laid at any one door. The Biden administration’s short timetable for withdrawal, tied to the 20th anniversary of 9/11, and in the middle of the fighting season, was a mistake. But the situation on the ground is the result of two decades of miscalculations and failed policies pursued by three prior U.S. administrations and of the failure of Afghanistan’s leaders to govern for the good of their people. Many of the critics speaking out now were architects of those policies.