LETTER: Who’s to blame?

Paul Conway

To the editor:

Once again, Leavenworth’s most vocal Trump worshiper opines about the fall of Afghanistan. He is right about one thing, it was an ignominious exit and we largely abandoned the Afghans who helped us. Hopes for a promising future are gone.

Let’s remember which administration negotiated with the Taliban cutting out the Afghan government. Who originally set a withdrawal date of May 2021? Most telling, who slow-rolled the SIV process?

No question that the actual withdrawal was messy, even bungled. I very much doubt that Biden got involved in the day to day decisions on how to withdraw. If you want to blame anybody, look at CENTCOM and the State Department.

We could have stayed in Afghanistan at the 2020 troop levels almost indefinitely with minimal casualties. Keeping an eye on ISIS and Al-Qaeda would be much easier with troops in country. But we were essentially maintaining a stalemate. A military victory was impossible but Afghans were transforming their society. Maybe in 20-30 years, a strong, peaceful, “modern” Afghanistan would exist. In the meantime, how to explain to a grieving family that their son or daughter died to prop up a stalemate? Selling a long stalemate to the American public was going to be a tall order indeed but at least it isn’t surrender.

Now that we are out, the military and State Department should take a hard look at our 20-year involvement. No question that the government under Ashraf Ghani was corrupt. The Afghan army did most of the fighting in the last three years. If Afghan soldiers weren’t paid and supplied and abandoned by their superiors, it should not surprise anybody that they did what Afghans have always done – cut a deal. So when did senior leaders know how corruption was hollowing out the Afghan forces and what did they do about it?

We flooded Afghanistan with money, much of which ended up in the pockets of government officials or just wasted. We built a state of the art divisional headquarters in Helmand Province, never asked for or used. Did anybody at CENTCOM or in Afghanistan ever question or try to rein in spending when it was obvious that much of it was pilfered?

We should be asking if we can actually build institutions from scratch. You can argue that Afghans understood basic tactics just fine but lacked the institutions to build and sustain an army. Building institutions that fit a country’s culture take a long time. It would take senior leaders years at their posts to become knowledgeable about how Afghan society works, gain the trust of Afghans and learn enough Pashto or Dari to be effective and show respect. The military personnel system is too rigid how to accommodate an unorthodox assignment policy.

“Lies” about Afghanistan? That’s rich. Biden is a honest, moral man who makes mistakes as do we all. It never fails to amaze how much the smugly self-righteous abide the lies of Trump, an evil, amoral scoundrel of the first order.

– Paul Conway/Leavenworth County