Remaining in Afghanistan forever never made sense, but a rushed, chaotic departure of US forces — as that took place at Bagram Airfield last week — is senseless, too.
Afghan soldiers who’ll now defend the base were caught off guard when generators suddenly shut down and lights went out as they sat for dinner. Even the facility’s new Afghan commander, Gen. Mir Asadullah Kohistani, didn’t know the Americans had skedaddled until later.
“We [heard] some rumor that the Americans had left . . . and finally by 7 o’clock in the morning . . . it was confirmed,” Kohistani said.
The move set off a mad rush by looters to clean out the place. It also fueled resentment among America’s Afghan allies. “In one night, [the Americans] lost all the good will of 20 years by leaving the way they did,” one soldier told the Associated Press.
The US pullout always risked a return to power of the Taliban, who still maintain ties to al Qaeda and who’ve already retaken more than 150 districts. But it didn’t have to enrich the extremists, who’ve captured impressive stores of US equipment, including Humvees, tanks and assault weapons.
“The loss of terrain and the rapidity of that loss of terrain has to be concerning” because morale “matters,” frets US Army Gen. Austin Scott Miller, who’s overseeing the withdrawal. “What you don’t want to have happen is that the people lose hope.”
President Joe Biden argues that post-pullout, we can use all our tools to “defend ourselves” as needed, while maintaining the status quo indefinitely could cost trillions and risk more US lives. Fair enough — but surely even Biden’s folks could’ve taken care to depart without making it seem like all is already lost.