Kabul has fallen. At the moment of writing this editorial, thousands of Afghani civilians and hundreds of American and foreign diplomatic officials cram the Hamid Karzai International Airport (while there are reports of at least 7 deaths in the immediacies of the airport so far) in the hopes of getting into one of the few planes that could lead them far away from the Taliban, far from Afghanistan, and into safety.
Meanwhile, the world has seen the shocking videos of people falling from planes in a desperate attempt to leave the more than sure massacre in Kabul after the fall of Afghanistan.
The following days are crucial for the evacuation of Western personnel and NATO Afghan allies (hopefully) as military planes come and go out of Kabul under the ominous watch of the Taliban. However, the dust in Kabul is settling and after twenty years of a multinational effort by the U.S and the West that cost thousands of brave troops, trillions of dollars, and four Presidents, the result is now clear for all of us to see: Kabul has fallen, the Taliban have defeated the United States and will have complete control over the country once we commemorate the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
Setting aside the debate over the decision to finally withdraw the remaining troops from America’s longest war, the stark reality is that President Biden oversaw an embarrassing military fiasco. The original timeline set by the administration had September 11 as the day when American troops would leave the country, and Military Intelligence forecasted that the Afghan government would withstand the Taliban onslaught from 6 months to a year.
They could not have been more wrong. We are still more than three weeks away from 9/11 and 6 months away from the date intelligence forecasted for the beginning of the end and the Taliban has already conquered the entire nation and thousands of American troops try to desperately create some order in Kabul’s airport, the only way out of fallen Afghanistan, as hundreds of Afghan civilians try to flee the country and with the Taliban already imposing their reign of terror over the capital.
This is a disaster of epic proportions. American citizens are still in harm’s way and the fate of America’s Afghan allies is uncertain (if we are optimistic) as the Administration has only evacuated 1,200 Afghan translators while there are hundreds of unconfirmed reports of them already being shot or hanged in the streets. We will be reading a lot about this debacle in the following days, but the American people (and the world) deserves more: we need accountability for this botched retreat.
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How is it possible that the most powerful military in the world miscalculated the Taliban strength so badly? What was going through the collective minds of the State and Defense Departments when they gave President Biden the intel arguing the government would hold a year when it ended up melting away in less than two weeks. Does it make sense that the U.S had such bad intel in a country where the military has been for two whole decades?
Where did all the money provided to the Afghan army go? Did they really have 300,000 members as the Biden administration said? Or were the ranks filled with so-called “ghost soldiers”? Did analysts and decision-makers really know how many real soldiers were in the ranks of the American-trained and American-equipped Afghan army?
Why did the American military decide to abandon the largest American Air Base (Bagram) months before the U.S. was set to go? Wasn’t air superiority the single definitive factor that gave an advantage to the coalition forces over the Taliban? Did it make sense to surrender a base that could be pivotal in the eventuality of a hasty evacuation of Kabul, as we are seeing now?
More to the point, was there even a plan for an emergency evacuation of Kabul? If so, did the plan consist of relying on one single exit point for both civilians, including Afghan allies, and diplomatic personnel? Why did the U.S wait until the last minute to start the evacuation of crucial American staff?
These are just a few dozens of common-sense questions that are still unanswered.
The public officials, bureaucrats, and decision-makers who planned this operation must be held accountable, and Congress must provide an accurate assessment of what happened during these months in Afghanistan.
This is not an issue of scoring partisan points; America has suffered one of the greatest military humiliations in its recent history, one that is likely even greater than the Fall of Saigon. We need to know what went wrong so it never happens again.
The United States Congress should set up an official, bipartisan inquiry to get to the deep of what went wrong in the Afghan debacle. The greatest American humiliation since (at least) 1975 cannot be swept under the rug.