The call of the dead, dark silences, painful memories and bottomless sorrow. In many ways, the the 20th anniversary of the September 11 reflected the annual rituals that helped a stricken nation endure incomprehensible loss.
But this year is different. For the first time since the United States suffered the deadliest attack on its homeland, no American soldiers are in the data Afghanistan . Not one.
In other circumstances it might be a glorious fact to celebrate. Had the nation-building process been successful, we might have left behind an Afghanistan that is no longer a safe haven for terrorists to attack us .
In hindsight, this was never expected . No matter how big our coalition is, how much we spent and sacrificed, it would never be enough to turn a warring set of tribes into a modern nation state. For good reason, it's known as the graveyard of empires.
There was another option, however, which, while not ideal, was good enough to prevent the Taliban from regaining power and creating a jihadist Disneyland. All we had to do was keep a small one. force in the country and to use our superior air power and weaponry tosupport the Afghan army in its ground operations.
This is the approach we have taken in recent years and which has succeeded. If we had continued to do so, we would still have a few thousand special ops troops there, but the terrorists would have been kept at bay and on the run, leaving the homeland safe from another attack from outside. the.
Instead, we have the worst of all possible outcomes. There are no soldiers in Afghanistan not because we won, but because we lost. The Commander-in-Chief ceded the gains made over the past 20 years to the same Taliban who harbored Osama bin Laden as he plotted and executed 9/11.
In its own way, President Biden's decision to withdraw all troops, and the the sudden and chaotic way he did it is almost as incomprehensible as the day the Twin Towers fell.
Biden just decided he didn't want a single American there anymore, and rejected allthe ideas put forward by his generals to make the force as small as possible. He wanted them all at the same time and was so careless that he cut out the details of the NATO allies.
The rush to exit was hopelessly botched as we left American citizens behind and betrayed many Afghans who helped us. The senseless deaths of 13 servicemen at Kabul airport underscored the shameful surrender to the artificial August 31 deadline.
Biden's initial plan was actually worse. He wanted the withdrawal deadline to be September 11, so he could turn the 20th anniversary into a victory party.
Sane people who attended or watched the Saturday ceremonies in New York City, the Pentagon and Shanksville, Pa., would be amazed if anyone thought this was an opportunity to claim a political triumph.
Has there ever been a bigger bad interinterpretation of public opinion by a sitting president? How on earth could Biden or anyone around him imagine that 9/11 could be anything but a day of mourning and a re-engagement for national security?
This is not to say that over time the politics of what has been called the War on Terror have changed. Success bred complacency, and many Americans who have come of age over the past two decades have never had the same understanding of how devastating 9/11 was or the extent of the terrorist threat. .
Immediately thereafter, the vast majority of Americans supported President George W. Bush's decision to invade Afghanistan and deliver brutal justice to Bin Laden and those who have him protected.
Good that most ofthese partisans would find it hard to see Afghanistan on a map, they knew we had to hunt down the terrorists instead of waiting for them to attack again.
Indeed, it has become the go-to argument for years: we should fight them there so that we don't have to fight them here.
That was the right prospect then, and the rest today, despite Biden's stupid surrender.
Unfortunately, the same reasoning was used to justify the invasion of Iraq, and there the argument was derailed. The loss of human life and treasure led former President Barack Obama to call Afghanistan the good war and Iraq the stupid war.
Yet even the good war was an albatross for the last three presidents, and Obama and Donald Trump tried to wash their hands of it, but couldn't.
The irony is that Biden succeeded and, therefore, is perhaps the only president to pay a serious political price - all because of the cowardly and incompetent way he did it.
With the return of the Taliban to power, have our dead really been avenged and our just cause properly pursued? And what about the nearly 2,500 servicemen who died in combat in Afghanistan, and the many, many who were wounded? Did they sacrifice in vain?
Long-term doubts about Biden's judgment and concerns about his cognitive decline are fully visible in this fiasco, raising alarm among our allies and delight among our adversaries. Nothing is more difficult for the world than a weakened and fearful America.
Especially since this defeat was a choice, whichreflects a lack of courage. It is hard to escape the conclusion that Biden, like so many other Americans, lost the intrigue of why we were in Afghanistan.
The moans lingering that this was the longest war fueled public support for the withdrawal, and Biden fed that sentiment by calling it an Eternal War. These are catchy sound bites, but they distort reality.
As serious national security analysts have pointed out, Afghanistan really hasn't been a war in years. No American has died in combat in the 18 months leading up to last month's suicide bombing at the airport.
Yet the mission was accomplished. serious terrorist attack for years and Afghanistan was not a safe haven for groups that would harm us, thanks to our army helping andguiding the Afghan army.
Even this limited operation was too much for the President and many in the public. This was a curious concern, given that we have kept much more troops and much longer in Europe since WWII and in South Korea since the Korean conflict.
Biden thought he knew best, but learns that national contempt for protracted conflict plays a secondary role to hatred for humiliating defeat . Voters across the political spectrum widely disapprove of the way he conducted the pullout, and his presidency was devastating.
Meanwhile, on the 20th anniversary, the Taliban pose for photos in our military gear and mock our troops as they bring Afghanistan back to Afghanistan. dark ages. And everywhere, jihadists are jubilant and inspired.
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