Retired four-star general compares Afghanistan withdrawal to Saigon departure
Fox News senior strategic analyst General Jack Keane discusses Biden’s Afghanistan foreign policy on ‘Special Report.’
President Biden has just sent combat forces back into Afghanistan to evacuate American civilians at the embassy and Afghans who have assisted us in the war effort. The 3,000 American forces will then presumably shoot their way out as they depart.
Inexplicably, we will leave a “core” diplomatic staff and U.S. combat forces to protect them. The Biden administration believes the Taliban will leave these Americans alone, because they want world approval.
The Biden administration is living in a fantasyland if they think this is going to end well. But when it comes to Afghanistan our political and military leaders have been living in fantasyland for years.
Just a week or so ago, senior U.S. officials were talking about diplomacy and negotiated solutions. A day or so later they said Afghanistan could fall within a matter of months.
The Taliban will take over all of Afghanistan in a matter of weeks, if not days. As more and more provincial and tribal leaders switch sides to the Taliban, the pressure on the others to do the same will only intensify.
They will be quick to lay down their arms in exchange for amnesty. No tribal leader or province head wants to be the last man standing in support of the Afghan government because Taliban reprisals will be vicious.
The mujahadeen fathers and grandfathers of the current generation of Taliban leaders seized control of Kabul in 1992. They captured then-Afghan President Mohammad Najibullah, tortured him, dragged his body behind a truck through the streets of Kabul and hung it from a lamppost for all to see.
The example isn’t lost on the current Afghan government leaders, who I predict will flee Kabul in the next few weeks rather than suffer the same fate.
The tragedy of Afghanistan is that the Taliban were always going to prevail. They knew it was only a matter of time before we got fed up and left and they would have the country to themselves.
All they had to do was wait us out.
When I was in Afghanistan 15 years ago, a tribal leader tapped on his bare wrist and told me, “You Americans, you have the watches, but we have the time.”
I was a junior aide to Dr. Henry Kissinger in the White House Situation Room when the Communist Vietnamese forces surrounded Saigon and were closing in on the American embassy.
The only way we could get our remaining forces and personnel out was with helicopters that were forced to touch down on a makeshift landing zone on the Embassy grounds.
I remember swearing to myself that never again should Americans fight a war that could not be won, with unclear purpose and ever-expanding objectives, propping up corrupt leaders who had no loyalty to us or to democratic governance.
That’s why, in the Reagan administration, I took those lessons of our failure in Vietnam to draft Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger’s Principles of War speech, which President Reagan endorsed. America should only go to war to defend our vital nation interests and with a clear path to victory.
Yet, here we are again.
The truth is the Afghan war was lost 19 years ago when we switched from our original mission of destroying Al Qaeda to a new mission – nation building a modern Afghanistan.
Our leaders wanted to turn one of the most backward, corrupt, illiterate, desolate, tribal countries in the world into a democracy that would rebuff Al Qaeda.
Our military efforts were doomed from the start when we tried to create a sophisticated Afghan military that relied on American forces, air support and intelligence.
Our original goal in Afghanistan was straightforward – kill those who killed our people. We sent a small contingent of American special forces in right after the Sept. 11 attacks and they succeeded brilliantly.
Within three months our troops, working alongside Afghan tribal leaders, destroyed most of Al Qaeda. They had the few hundred remaining fighters surrounded, including Usama Bin Laden, huddled in the caves of the Hindu Kush mountains separating Afghanistan from Pakistan.
Instead of finishing them off then and there or pursuing them through the mountains and into the tribal regions of Pakistan to destroy them, we inexplicably let them slip away.
We paid Pakistan handsomely, year after year, to finish off Al Qaeda for us. While they happily pocketed our aid, they never went after Bin Laden, and let his organization survive and even grow.
Instead, we stuck around Afghanistan consumed by Mission Impossible. We lost over 2,000 Americans, tens of thousands of Americans were injured, and over a trillion dollars wasted.
Our political leaders, Republican and Democrats alike, and senior military officers failed us in Afghanistan, just as they did in Vietnam.
They were seduced by English-speaking Afghan expatriates living in the West. We put them in power and continued to prop them up, despite their incompetence, corruption and failure to win the support of their own people.
Year after year our American politicians of both parties and senior military leaders assured us that success was right around the corner – all we needed was a few thousand more troops, another year or so, and of course billions more in aid and assistance.
But victory was impossible, even a negotiated settlement beyond reach. Let’s just pray that we get our people out, safely, and our troops home.
And then, once again, let’s promise ourselves that we will never be in this position again. And mean it this time.
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