Anthony Blinken gives defensive testimony

Blinken’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan draws criticism

Anthony Blinken gives defensive testimony

Robbie Santos, Contributing Columnist

Over the past few months, the eyes of the world have been watching Afghanistan following the United States’ withdrawal of troops out of the country. As has been well-reported, the Taliban quickly organized and took control in the absence of United States forces. The fierce backlash brought on by the exit, directed against the Biden administration, has been equally well-documented.

On Sept. 13, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken was the first member of Cabinet to testify before Congress regarding the removal of troops from the country America occupied for two decades.

As would be expected of any Secretary of State, Blinken defended the decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan. It did not take long for him to come under fire from members of Congress over this chaotic removal and the subsequent power grab by the Taliban.

However, Secretary Blinken made charges of his own, arguing that it was not the Biden administration that negotiated with the Taliban and set a deadline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops on the ground. Rather, under the scrutiny of both Republicans and Democrats, Blinken returned a question, pondering whether staying in Afghanistan for another year, or longer, would have led to a different outcome.

Blinken continued, asking whether hundreds of billions of dollars in additional aid and resources would have made any difference. He subsequently answered himself, stating that staying in Afghanistan for any amount of time, or dumping any sum of money into the country, would not have solved the issues that have evolved in the absence of the U.S. military.

Here, I largely agree with the Secretary of State.

The United States had been in Afghanistan for roughly two decades, and in that time, they accomplished their intended goal as posited by President Biden — to reduce the organized terrorist operations. Today, the presence of troops in Afghanistan is no longer in our best interest.

Trump entered office in 2017. He wanted to leave Afghanistan then, and so does Biden now, four years later. Although the chaos of the withdrawal can be rightfully criticized, Biden followed through in ending our longest war.

Regardless of our mistakes in leaving the country — and there were many — they did not inspire, nor cause, the Taliban to seize control. If we had waited another five years, the Taliban would have done the same thing they’re doing now. If we had dumped another $500 million into funding the Afghan army to defend encroachments of the Taliban, it would have made no difference.

The U.S. withdrawal was a disorderly display of well-intentioned but poorly executed decisions. We should not have stayed in Afghanistan any longer, nor spent any more time in a conflict that was rapidly draining the U.S. of millions of dollars. Even so, there’s a lot that could and should have been done to mitigate the damage of our withdrawal.

We should have ensured the Afghan military was prepared to defend themselves against the inevitable attacks of the Taliban, as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani promised they would. We should have located and assisted every Afghan citizen that was putting the safety of themselves and their families in jeopardy. We should have constructed a plan to evacuate American citizens before the withdrawal.

With the clarity of hindsight, it’s easy to shout down the decisions of others, and it’s easy to bombard political and military leaders with criticism when it seems like they have failed. But, in each of these scenarios, we have the luxury of knowing what these decision-makers did not. This doesn’t excuse their shortcomings nor alleviate their responsibility, but it demonstrates how the best military minds in the world, coupled with the best national intelligence systems ever created, can still falter.

While some members of Congress have gone so far as to say the withdrawal was a betrayal of the service and sacrifice of our armed forces, this is not the case. Rather, the withdrawal shows that the U.S. is no longer willing to allow Americans to pay for a war that went beyond its original purposes. It was a promise to all the mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters and friends and neighbors that they no longer need to fear that someone they love won’t be coming home.