The Inquirer heard from readers this week on the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in letters we gathered for print and reprinted online below. If you would like to share your thoughts on Afghanistan or other topics, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Afghanistan reclaimed, again
While we may be dismayed by the outcome of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, we should not be surprised. We saw the same thing happen in Somalia in the 1990s. A handful of local elites funded by international donors gave lip service to the peace- and state-building agendas of their sponsors, while in fact they were simply vying for advantage over their domestic rivals, whom they know will be there as competitors for power long after outside actors depart. We may not like the Taliban’s ideologies or policies re: women’s rights or civil liberties. But we should be realistic about the limits of Western-style “institution building” in societies which have their own long-standing social institutions and practices. While we may criticize U.S. authorities for faulty intelligence or flawed exit strategies, the U.S. did not “lose” Afghanistan. A different faction of Afghans took their country back from their Western-backed local rivals, just as they did from the Soviet-sponsored Afghan regime in the 1980s.
—Lee Cassanelli, Havertown
Extract the civilians first
I am a former U.S. Marine Corps Infantry Officer and I am stunned by the lack of planning resulting in the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan. It does not take a military genius to plan a withdrawal. You remove the United States civilians first and any Afghan civilians we want to protect. Then remove all equipment and weapons we want to keep. After that, we bring out the military. Biden did the opposite because he decided on an arbitrary date and here we are. And it would have been a lot smarter to wait until the fighting season was over and the Taliban were holed up in Pakistan for the winter.
—Bill Ashmore, West Chester
Fallout from the the 2000 election in 2021
The news out of Afghanistan has some casting blame on the last man to be president during the 20-year war. But look a little closer at history: In 2001, President George W. Bush launched the invasion to find and kill Osama bin Laden. When that effort failed, Bush lied to Congress and mislead his secretary of state to justify an unwinnable war in Iraq. President Barack Obama managed to kill bin Laden, but his announcement that U.S. forces would leave Afghanistan emboldened the Taliban, leading to another increase in U.S. troops. Trump, having eviscerated the State Department, cut out the Afghan government to negotiate with the Taliban, ensuring a Taliban takeover. What we are seeing now is the result of the election in 2000 decided by the Supreme Court to stop counting ballots in Florida awarding the election to George Bush. A free and fair election, decided by voters, not politicians or a partisan court, should determine who wins elections.
—Meg Berlin, Philadelphia
What happened to support of Afghanistan withdrawal?
Just a few weeks ago at least 70% of Americans were in favor of withdrawal from Afghanistan. Where are those voices now? All I hear from the media now are the voices of the minority of people who were against withdrawal all along. And why am I hearing from people like Condoleezza Rice with regard to Afghanistan? The last person I want to hear negativity from right now is someone from the Bush administration (lower case), who got us into this mess in the first place by committing to a forever war in Afghanistan. Where is the accountability? Judging from the media response, it all lands on Joe Biden.
—Bill Maginnis, North Wales
The U.S. should not have left
John F. Kennedy once famously said, “Victory has a hundred fathers, but defeat is an orphan.” President Biden’s address in the midst of the images of chaos in Afghanistan proves this maxim. It’s far too late to litigate the origins of the mission there. The fact is if the U.S. was not prepared to be a permanent presence there we should not have exported our values there. An entire generation of young women is now firmly in the crosshairs of the Taliban for the sin of being educated. If I was a citizen of Taiwan I would be chilled watching the images of what happens when the U.S. betrays a people. It’s unforgivable.
—Kenneth Rayca, Cinnaminson
Response to Mike Pence on Kabul
Mike Pence characterized evacuation scenes in Kabul with words like “chaos,” “reckless,” and “disastrous” in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. One might think he was suffering from PTSD flashbacks to Jan. 6 when he fled for his life from a mob urged on by President Trump. President Biden’s evacuation plan has not yet finished and may be completed a month ahead of President Trump’s likely date in September. Let us not forget that the greatest threat to American democracy came not from the Taliban but from a U.S. president who turned cheerleader for a mob of insurrectionists.
—Michael J. Cummings, Chestnut Hill