Extraction from Quagmire – A Stunning Failure

By Neera Kuckreja Sohoni

In Black Rose, an old Hollywood movie – resentful of Norman occupiers of England and eager to help his friend free Englishmen held hostage by Normans, but wondering how his friend plans to climb over the high fortress walls to access the dungeon – Tyron Power asks him, “What’s your plan?” And his friend replies, “Well, that’s the hard part. The Thinking!”


Who could guess that a Hollywood script writer could well have been speaking for Biden and his ‘withdrawal from Afghanistan’ plan?


Much water has flown since Biden announced his decision on April 14 to put an end to US presence in Afghanistan by September. To avoid putting American soldiers in harm’s way, as per Biden’s wish, American forces were to be withdrawn before evacuating their families, other American civilians, and Afghan allies – in contrast to conventional evacuation protocol followed in war-torn areas.


With American forces stealthily departing their posts and vacating bases, leaving billions of dollars’ worth of military hardware and software behind for Afghans to guard, the plan’s collapse became imminent – facilitated by Taliban speedily overrunning the entire country.


Since the disastrous withdrawal-evacuation process unfolded – relentlessly captured daily on television screens, showing heartbreaking tragic efforts by desperate Americans and Afghans to exit the country – the President and advisors have dithered, fumbled, and even contradicted each other over the ill-guided substance and failed execution of American withdrawal from that wretched battleground – one that has gained infamy as the graveyard of invaders ranging from Greeks, Huns, Mongols and Christians in bygone eras, to the British Empire, Russia, and America subsequently.


Rooted in righteous rage and resolve to avenge the horrendous attack on American soil on September 11 2001 by jihadist terrorists nourished and harbored by Afghanistan, which resulted in the mass killing, maiming, and cancer-affliction of thousands of innocent Americans, America launched a war of retribution that morphed into a permanent crusade against Islamist terrorism, in turn resulting in a two decade-long American presence in Afghanistan.


Whether our two-decade presence in Afghanistan fulfilled its objectives will be for experts in coming years to assess, critique, and infer lessons from. But in the immediate context of the disastrous execution of American withdrawal, except Biden, there is no one of significance or substance in America or outside, who has spoken of it as anything less than total failure and a permanent blemish on American prestige and credibility as the world’s leader.


Caught between the confusing aims of terror-proofing on one hand, and liberalizing and democratizing an orthodoxy on the other, America has caused a self-inflicted death blow to its continuation in Afghanistan. Confounded by lack of clear purpose behind its occupation of Afghanistan, it has allowed its treasury to bleed leaving taxpayers with a whopping loss of up to two trillion dollars, and further battle-caused loss and maiming of American lives.


We are all smart enough to recognize that guerillas do not indulge in conventional warfare with pitched battles and dawn-to-dusk hours set aside for battling. Our attackers today lurk behind every corner of every American home, embassy and building. Equally, we have known how nation-building fails when it is not organic. And Islamist or any other orthodoxy such as Communist, Socialist, or WOKE-ist cannot be tamed into becoming democratic, with reverence for God-given human rights including the trinity of right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.


Failed “nation-building” and “social transformation” has enabled Islamists to turn hapless people into terrorists once they see that neither democrat nor autocrat regimes make any difference to their wretched daily lives and penury. Their women may want education and to shed their veils, but the males determine the course of patriarchal societies and histories.


Biden’s first nine months have already caused him to make both forced and unforced errors on our southern border. To blame him for this most recent debacle is easy but it is only partially fair. Four consecutive presidents have seen it fit to take America to Afghanistan and to keep it stationed there. For what? Is unclear.


War has a momentum of its own, but propulsion comes from the military-industrial junta and corrupt political regimes. Biden’s commitment to cease America’s martial presence in history’s most celebrated graveyard is thus to be applauded, not ridiculed. But that does not excuse his shoddy rendering of his withdrawal symphony. If anything, it has made Biden personally and America collectively the world’s laughing stock. While Trump was fodder for Saturday Night cameos and sniggers among our Canadian, French and British leaders, Biden and his team’s handling of Afghanistan and their bumbling and tumbling through media questioning as well as his Vice President’s nervous cackling when probed about the Afghan fiasco should provide enough material for 24-hour parodying!


In parliamentary democracies, heads fall almost immediately in the wake of a cabinet minister’s or secretary’s or prime minister’s inept handling of a national crisis. Not so in America where presidents are enfeebled but mostly survive their scandalous administrative and policy failures or even their personal sexual misconduct. Impeachment is tedious and removing a president by declaring the person mentally or physically unfit is much more challenging than a vote of confidence in the Indian and British parliaments.


Cumulatively between them, Biden, his Foreign Secretary Blinken, Defense Secretary Retd. General Austin, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army General Milley, and others heading intelligence agencies surely have close to 150 years of experience in working with or running various government entities. Yet they blundered in this least critical of missions, which is not even being carried out under the constant barrage of bombing as our Allied Governments faced during World War II.


So of what use is length of service except to illustrate how talent decays and gathers dust protected by impossible hurdles in achieving accountability. All those president’s men, with all their professional accomplishments fortified by their newly gained varnish of Wokeness, alas have lacked the foresight, knowhow, and intuitive power to select the best manner in which to bow out of Afghanistan without undermining the personal safety of evacuees and jeopardizing our immediate and long-term national security. Thus (to use Shakespearean lingo) doth bureaucratic security trump national security.


Whether heads roll and if so whose is neither known nor worth fretting about. What is worth addressing is how America recovers from this lethal blow to its standing and credibility both within and without the country. Are we a nation of competent bureaucrats and generals who know both how to wage war and end it with equal dexterity? Was Biden’s claim to being a foreign policy expert grossly misleading and a misread by a captive press? Was his canvassing during his European trip that “America is Back” premature or just plain false, much like his feverish call to “Build Back Better”? Or just that being WOKE, liberal, and leftist permits one to operate inefficiently, fecklessly and recklessly while hiding behind the blinding fog of alternative reality?


As the August 31 deadline approaches Biden is expected to shortly announce America needs more time to complete the evacuation – an extension unlikely to be accepted by Taliban leadership which has already indicated it will deem any extension as illegal occupation. Whether Biden prevails will determine the future course of US-Afghan relations and of the global war against terrorism.



The writer regularly contributes opeds to The South Asian Times.

Images courtesy of (Photo courtesy US Air Force) and thesatimes | Welcome to The South Asian Times

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