Afghanistan

Afghanistan: A 'Sudden Fall' Two Decades in the Making

Plus: A history of U.S. sex work prohibition and its harms, against the Open App Markets Act, and more...

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Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani fled the country yesterday as the Taliban entered Kabul and took control of the presidential palace. Images of the Taliban taking the city, scenes of chaos and crowding at the Kabul airport in an attempt to leave, and rumors of burqa shops booming have a lot of Americans pretending like it's not in spite—or because—of 20 years of U.S. occupation that this "sudden fall" is happening and that somehow, if we just stay a little longer, we can turn the situation around.

The delusional forever-war crowd has been joined by people who just want to slam the Biden administration whenever possible, creating a cacophony of voices advocating for continued U.S. lunacy in Afghanistan.

While acknowledging that "this was a disaster that was produced by four administrations, two Republican (George W. Bush, Donald Trump) and two Democratic (Barack Obama, Joe Biden)," Washington Post columnist Max Boot somehow concludes that "this is on Biden, and it will leave an indelible stain on his presidency."

But some rational thought has managed to prevail, thankfully.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken told CNN yesterday that "the idea that the status quo could have been maintained by keeping our forces there I think is simply wrong."

"After 20 years of U.S. effort, the loss of 2,448 soldiers and a trillion spent, Afghanistan was left with a corrupt government and an ineffectual military," tweeted Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.). "At this moment, we must do everything we can to evacuate our allies and open our doors to refugees."

One empty, Respectable Centrist line of commentary has been to say that the U.S. leaving is the right decision but that President Joe Biden—who has pushed back by months the withdrawal deadline former President Donald Trump negotiated—was somehow too hasty. It's unclear what some folks advocating this sort of mushy middle ground think could have been done to soften the blow of U.S. withdrawal.

Others suggest that the fault lies in waiting too long to evacuate.

"The rapid reconquest of the capital, Kabul, by the Taliban after two decades of a staggeringly expensive, bloody effort to establish a secular government with functioning security forces in Afghanistan is, above all, unutterably tragic," writes The New York Times editorial board, in a sentiment almost no one can deny. And "the Biden administration was right to bring the war to a close. Yet there was no need for it to end in such chaos, with so little forethought for all those who sacrificed so much in the hopes of a better Afghanistan."

USA Today contributor Daniel DePetris waves away criticisms that the pro-withdrawal crowd was somehow unaware that what's now happening would happen or could've taken steps to prevent it.

"Those who believe a full and complete U.S. troop withdrawal is the best course of action understood quite well what could happen on the ground once the U.S. military left. Removing the best fighting force on the planet from a civil war will inevitably have some impact on the fighting," he writes. But "from the standpoint of U.S. national security interests, which party was winning or losing Afghanistan's civil war at any given time is subsumed by a far more important consideration: after 20 years of backstopping the Afghan government and paying for the Afghan security forces, extending the U.S. troop presence in the country was unlikely to make much of a difference in the war."

This may be "hard to accept" for many, he adds. But it is the reality.

Perhaps worse than the mush-mouthed centrist critics is the pure political opportunism this has spawned in some corners, with partisans desperate to blame either Biden or Trump for what's happening now in Afghanistan.

The Republican Party, which bragged about Trump's negotiations with the Taliban, removed that portion from its website.

"The catastrophe is 100% on @JoeBiden. It would not have happened if Trump had been re-elected," claimed right-wing radio host Hugh Hewitt.

Biden and Trump themselves have even blamed each other.

Biden "ran out of Afghanistan instead of following the plan our Administration left for him," alleged Trump. "This is complete failure through weakness, incompetence, and total strategic incoherence."

Biden said it was Trump leaving the Taliban "in the strongest position militarily since 2001" that was responsible for current events.

But the Biden administration seems to remain committed to withdrawal, and to evacuating at least some Afghan refugees, even as the government sends in more American troops to help with evacuation efforts.

"When I became President, I faced a choice — follow through on the deal, with a brief extension to get our forces and our allies' forces out safely, or ramp up our presence and send more American troops to fight once again in another country's civil conflict," the president said on Saturday, promising not to pass on the war in Afghanistan to a fifth U.S. president.

"One more year, or five more years, of U.S. military presence would not have made a difference if the Afghan military cannot or will not hold its own country. And an endless American presence in the middle of another country's civil conflict was not acceptable to me," Biden said.

"Over the next 48 hours, we will have expanded our security presence to nearly 6,000 troops, with a mission focused solely on facilitating" the removal of U.S. personnel and Afghan allies from the area, the Department of State and Department of Defense said in a statement.

"We will accelerate the evacuation of thousands of Afghans eligible for U.S. Special Immigrant Visas, nearly 2,000 of whom have already arrived in the United States over the past two weeks," it continued. "For all categories, Afghans who have cleared security screening will continue to be transferred directly to the United States."


FREE MINDS

A history of U.S. sex work prohibition and its harms. University of Montana professor Anya Jabour has a detailed and interesting piece in The Washington Post outlining how "claims of protecting sex workers have long been used to punish them."

"As citizens and lawmakers ponder competing approaches to the sex trade, focusing on the welfare of sex workers would allow for a rethinking of policies that have done damage for more than a century," Jabour writes.


FREE MARKETS

Against the Open App Markets Act.

"Ironically, the legislation would damage the value consumers receive from Apple's and Google's platforms," writes the American Enterprise Institute's Mark Jamison. "The legislation would, among other things, require the companies to permit third parties to install their own app stores, allow users to bypass app stores, and permit third-party payment systems."


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