From An Angry Reader:
Subject: I expect better of a supposed historian
Your article criticizing the Biden administration for the failure in Afghanistan has several glaring holes in it. For one thing, your figure of $85 Billion in equipment is completely false, that was the cost to train the Afghan army over the course of twenty years, and NOT the cost of the equipment. Bagram airbase may have been abandoned over night, but so what? It was not tenable as a place to hold, so why should we try? No lists have been turned over to the Taliban. You consider our withdrawal from Afghanistan a disaster, how so? We lost thirteen Marines as we evacuated tens of thousands of Afghan Nationals who wanted to leave, and how could we have stayed? Surged more troops into a lost war? You have NO sense of history is you really believe that our leaving Afghanistan was a defeat. After twenty years of lost men and women, trillions spent in a useless war, President Biden had the guts to actually do the right thing, and get us out.
Dear Angry Reader Edward Joesting,
The $85 billion is not my figure but one released by the Pentagon to the media and widely accepted. If you attempt as I did to check that figure on federal websites, and try to determine the ratio between the weapons themselves and the costs to teach Afghans to use them (and the costs of many weapons systems have built into them the training expense necessary to use them), it is now impossible to find such information, apparently because the State Department has removed data (https://www.forbes.com/sites/adamandrzejewski/2021/08/23/staggering-costs–us-military-equipment-left-behind-in-afghanistan/?sh=2adae5ce41db). Why do you think they would do that?
You are completely wrong that the $85 billion was “the cost to train the Afghan army over the course of twenty years”: the cost represents all the equipment and the training required to use it, and we have no idea of the exact nature of the figure, given the theft, graft, and sloppy auditing of the last twenty years, but we do know we have given them well over $80 billion worth of weapons and the training necessary to use them (https://taskandpurpose.com/news/taliban-weapons-afghanistan/).
If Bagram airbase was not “tenable as a place to hold” what was the Kabul airport in comparison? Bagram was the linchpin to all US security and assistance in Afghanistan and the only place where the US, after spending several hundred million dollars on upgrades, could control air entry in and exit from Afghanistan, and dominate the air space of the country. Lists of evacuees have been turned over to the Taliban; thousands of programmed biometric scanners were left intact as well and are now in use by the Taliban.
I alone don’t consider the evacuation a disaster; 65 percent of the American people do as well, almost all of our NATO allies agree it was a catastrophe, and lots of Democrats agree.
Leaving Afghanistan and leaving in shame, defeat, and chaos are two different things. Most Americans agreed with the idea of the former but not the latter. Even the Russians left with less chaos than did we. No American had died in Afghanistan in 18 months. There was a way to stage a graduated and careful withdrawal that might have left the Afghan government in control with measured air support; but if that vestigial support was considered too costly, then even a complete withdrawal was possible without the mess we left behind. Biden, in contrast, had an agenda of announcing on 9/11 that he was the first president to yank out all troops. He did that, and in the process wrecked NATO for the near future, ensured a Taliban terrorist haven and arms mart, ruined US deterrence for the near future, guaranteed violence and death for anyone left behind in Afghanistan that was Westernized, and has encouraged our enemies to take risks that they otherwise would not have.
All that is not the “right” thing and it takes no “guts” but sheer insanity to ensure such disasters.
I expect better of a supposed angry reader.