Lady Butler, Remnants of an Army, 1879, Tate Gallery. Assistant Surgeon William Brydon, the sole survivor of a British Army of 16,000 men, arrives at the gates of Jallabad in 1842.
Thomas Joscelyn sums up why we failed with dead on precision.
There is plenty of blame to go around.
Blame President Bill Clinton. His administration didn’t take Al Qaeda seriously. Clinton and his advisers passed up multiple opportunities to target Osama bin Laden. The Al Qaeda threat manifested on Clinton’s watch, leading to 9/11 and, ultimately, the war in Afghanistan.
Blame President George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld. In 2001, they had the opportunity to deliver a death blow to Al Qaeda and the Taliban. But instead of committing the forces necessary to hunt down bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and others, they hesitated. The U.S. relied on local warlords and other actors, some of whom were duplicitous. Bin Laden and Zawahiri finagled their way out of the remote Tora Bora Mountains. Al Qaeda regrouped in the years that followed.
Blame Barack Obama. Obama decided it was in our “vital national interest” to help the Afghans build the “capacity” to defend their country on their own. In December 2009, he committed forces — at their peak, more than 100,000 of them — to accomplish the task. More Americans were killed in Afghanistan during Obama’s war than in any other period of this debacle. But Obama wasn’t fighting to win. His surge in forces came with an expiration date of just 18 months and then he chased a fanciful peace deal with the Taliban. To his credit, Obama ordered the raid that killed bin Laden. But Al Qaeda lived, despite Obama’s attempts to declare the group dead.
Blame Donald Trump. His instinct was to bring the soldiers home. Instead, he agreed to a small increase in America’s footprint, claiming that the U.S. was fighting for “victory.” He didn’t mean it.
Blame Trump’s Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, who portrayed the Taliban as America’s counterterrorism partner, saying the group had agreed to “work alongside of us to destroy” Al Qaeda. Trump repeated Pompeo’s claim, saying the Taliban “will be killing terrorists for us.” This is nonsense. The Taliban’s men are terrorists and there’s no evidence they’ve broken with Al Qaeda.
Blame the generals. It is true that they were asked to fight a war that was undermined by America’s erratic political leadership. But no general ever stood up to say: No. We cannot prosecute an unwinnable war.
Since 2018, the U.S. military has been invested in the State Department’s delusional peace process with the Taliban, repeatedly claiming that there was no “military solution” to the conflict. But this was always a lie.
As the Taliban takes control of Kabul, Americans can see for themselves that the jihadists had a “military solution” in mind all along. The Taliban and Al Qaeda were never ambivalent about their jihad. They were fighting to win.
Gerard van der Leun, now a refugee burned out of his home, with the loss of everything, by the fire that swept over Paradise, California, is in Chico and reports that the good people of that town are acting like real Americans.
Near closing time in the menâ€™s Clothing Clearance Corner on the first floor of Pennyâ€™s at the Chico Mall, a young girl is replacing the piles of tossed clothing left by the numbed shoppers from Paradise frantic for cheap basic clothing. Some of them are camped in tents somewhere close by the mall; for how long nobody knows. But this young, quietly lovely girl is putting the Clothing Clearance Corner back in apple pie order as the storeâ€™s dismal day closes. I take my few finds from the Clothing Clearance Corner and, leaving, say, â€œThat seems like a thankless task.â€
â€œNot at all,â€ she replies. â€œNot at all.â€
â€œReally? Why the hell not?â€
â€œHey, I do this job every day in this store. Itâ€™s my assigned task and usually its okay but I only do it for the money because it gets really monotonous, meaningless.â€
Sheâ€™s a student, I perceive.
â€œBut today those people really needed these clothes in this corner because of the price. And tomorrow more people like that will really need them too. And so I want to make this the best I can for them. So Iâ€™m going to put it all back on hangers and arrange them by size. It will be right by the morning. You better go. Weâ€™re closing. Thank you for coming in.â€
Just a young girl working late in the Clothing Clearance Corner. Doing one of those little jobs; one of those jobs that actually make the world turn. She was leaving it all on the field.
At the ends of the neighborhood streets, I see people setting up tables and I see the people of the neighborhoods coming out onto the main streets and putting out whatever they have to give there for the taking if needed. They are literally leaving it all on the field.
At the Elks Lodge after I picked up some bedding and a few new pillows and looked out over acres of goods being laid out for the taking, from flats of pet food to cribs and playpens (someplace safe to rest your baby that is not on your hip). As I was leaving to see the East Avenue Church scene an Elk (My late father was a member of this lodge up until his death in 1972); a brother, I say, of my father waves me over and opens the back seat of my car and puts in two cases of one liter bottles of San Pellegrino . The Elks are leaving it all on the field.
In the 24-Hour Walgreens Pharmacy on East Avenue, the pharmacists have been working overlapping shifts since the fire swept over Paradise last Thursday. These people and their back up staff work seemingly rock solid for hours on end. They fill and file and dispense medications which people from Paradise do not have with them. This is a demanding and thankless and exhausting task. And yet â€” I am the witness â€” they have been doing this without letup. Many have come in from surrounding towns, from Redding, to help and to keep the medications needed by a town of 30,000 displaced into a city of 80,000. Yes, the Walgreens pharmacists are leaving it all on the field.