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An American Eye-Opener: The Withdrawal from Afghanistan

Updated: Sep 30

Originally published Sept. 7, 2021

Amidst the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and public criticism of Joe Biden, a new perspective comes into focus.

While there is real concern for Afghan interpreters and allies whom the United States left behind as well as approximately 150 American passport holders, the pullout revealed much to the world about the dynamic which exists between America and the people of Afghanistan — as well as the true nature of the Taliban’s relationship with the Afghan people. On full display the world saw how HUGE portions of the people of Afghanistan do in fact hate the Taliban.

This was news to me.

This is what we had been told, although many people outside of Afghanistan wondered aloud what the true nature of the relationship between the Afghan people and the Taliban really was. Now we know.

The Taliban are not — and never were — folk heroes. As politicians try to interpret and label the U.S. military’s swift exit as the worst disaster in generations, they are missing an opportunity to really capitalize on the true silver lining of the moment. The United States was in fact beloved in Afghanistan, as demonstrated by the video images at the Kabul Airport.

Ideally some iteration of “Afghans Love America” would have been the headline in the early days of the airlift. Instead, the U.S. media focused solely on the Afghans who lost their lives literally in the machinery of the withdrawal, and on how the United States had let down their friends. The media gave an accurate accounting of what was transpiring on the ground at the airport in Kabul but gave no perspective on it. The mad rush to the airport by tens of thousands of Afghans was perhaps the most embarrassing, demoralizing, and revealing thing that could have ever happened to the incoming Taliban regime. The Taliban learned from watching the news crews, as the world did, that the people of Afghanistan loath them.

Short of actually having been defeated by the Afghan National Army, there could be no more undermining and humiliating event to the Taliban than the sight of Afghans clinging to American aircraft. What is so unfortunate here in the United States is that in order to counter a political narrative from taking shape that President Biden is incompetent, the administration haphazardly launched a well-publicized drone strike designed to satisfy the American public’s demand for swift action against terrorists — and in the process very likely massacred 10 children including zero terrorists. In doing so they have harmed America’s interests by creating fresh enemies on the ground in Afghanistan among the very people who were our strongest allies. The relatives of the children killed in the recent drone strike were in fact Afghans who had worked with America during the war and were being processed for special immigrant visas by the State Department when a drone strike hit the family courtyard amidst a family get-together. The Pentagon thinks people were seen from the sky loading explosives into a car and so they launched the attack. The Associated Press conducted an investigation and interviews with the survivors which casts real doubt on the government narrative.

So what have we achieved? We are altering what should be a very demoralizing public relations loss for the Taliban and turning it into a vindication for all the U.S. critics who have cast doubt on the entirety of 20 years of American involvement in Afghanistan.

The surrender of the Afghan army, along with the bombing at the airport that killed nearly 200 civilians including 13 American troops and wounded scores more was such a horrible and tragic event that it seems we owe it to the lives lost to not make their deaths be in vein. The Americans who died gave their lives for their country — while also giving their lives for the Afghan people. Let the American media talk about that for a bit. There exists a profound paradigm shift where the “invaders,” as the Taliban called us, are in fact seen as the true friends of the Afghan people. The pronouncements by Taliban spokespeople that they have “liberated” Afghanistan from the horrible occupiers rang hollow — until the story of the dead children in the Afghan courtyard began to be told. Additionally, the wrong target of the retaliatory drone strike further strengthens arguments in favor of remaining in Afghanistan since it highlights the ineffectiveness of Biden’s “over the horizon” military capabilities since the strike demonstrates that without American intelligence on the ground — or a friendly Afghan military — the probability of a 25 year old drone pilot at CIA headquarters sitting at a desk in Langley, Virginia being able to recognize the difference between explosives being loaded into a trunk as opposed to large water bottles is potentially zero.

The pictures from the airport told the world a different story from the one we were expecting. The truth is that the Taliban have a tougher job now than anyone realized. The world saw and no one can deny that the Taliban have lost the war for hearts and minds within their own land. Let us not help them change that narrative by replacing it with one where America, with it’s disastrous drone war record which has left thousands of innocent victims in it’s wake, won’t achieve any of it’s goals — like reducing terrorism or winning any new friends.

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