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Afghanistan

#21 User is offline   desertratt 

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Posted 2021-August-17, 05:28

View Postkenberg, on 2021-August-16, 06:14, said:

I guess someone should say something. I confess to ignorance.

It's a disaster for the Afghans, for those who wish for a normal life. Expressing sympathy seems inaequate.

As to what we should have done, well, not this. Sooner or later, we had to find a way out. But not this way out.

Some Biden representatives were saying this is not abandonment. The Afghan Ambassador to the US was on PBS saying, I am not quoting exactly, that it sure seems like abandonment. I agree with her. It's clear from what has happened over the last few weeks that those who were planning our exit had no clue. That needs to be acknowledged and addressed.

But first and foremost, this is a disaster for the Afghans. We have to address our errors, but it also seems obscene to focus right now on how this will affect us.

Again, I confess to ignorance.

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#22 User is offline   desertratt 

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Posted 2021-August-17, 05:34

I am replying quickly to the first two posts. Now I understand why Trump, who wanted to pull out of Afghanistan, was fumbling around and never accomplished it. I also understand that Biden is dangerous because he doesn't really think about things. Seems to just do what feels good at the time. As far as nation building goes it does not take rocket science to understand it is a fools errand. Impossible to lead people by the nose - you can only give them some tools. They need the have the desire from within. We furnish Israel tools - they have the innate desire.
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#23 User is offline   Winstonm 

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Posted 2021-August-17, 07:31

View Postdesertratt, on 2021-August-17, 05:34, said:

I am replying quickly to the first two posts. Now I understand why Trump, who wanted to pull out of Afghanistan, was fumbling around and never accomplished it. I also understand that Biden is dangerous because he doesn't really think about things. Seems to just do what feels good at the time. As far as nation building goes it does not take rocket science to understand it is a fools errand. Impossible to lead people by the nose - you can only give them some tools. They need the have the desire from within. We furnish Israel tools - they have the innate desire.


It's hard to imagine a more idiotic example of "doing something unthinking and that feels good at the time" than the Trump regime's negotiating solely with the Taliban a withdrawing of American forces from Afghanistan by a date certain without involving the Afghanistan government in the negotiations at all. Talk about ignorant hubris.


- Ignorant Hubris: I think that is what Donald Trump translates to in Dari.
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#24 User is offline   kenberg 

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Posted 2021-August-17, 08:09

Most people on this thread, including me, agree that Trump was somewhere between very bad and unbelievably horrid. So don't expect an argument there.

But saying "Trump was horrid" will not stop people from evaluating the Biden plans, or lack of plans, for withdrawal.

Earlier in this thread there was a percentage assessment of responsibility in which Biden was given 10% of the blame. I, and from what I am seeing many others from across the political spectrum, look at it differently. For the first 19 of the 20 years Biden has little or no responsibility. He was Veep for 8 years but Veep is the dictionary example of a nobody.

But now he is the president, and for the withdrawal and the manner of the withdrawal, he gets virtually all of the responsibility. So in some mathematical way, we could say 0% for 19 years and 100% for 1 year (less than one year) averages out to less than 5%. But this is a massive misuse of mathematics.

If we look at the withdrawal, how it was planned, how it was carried out, what consequences flow from it, Biden owns it. His attempts to duck this responsibility are a serious error. Let's take a portion of yesterday's speech:

Quote

Here's what I believe to my core: It is wrong to order American troops to step up when Afghanistan's own armed forces would not. The political leaders of Afghanistan were unable to come together for the good of their people, unable to negotiate for the future of their country when the chips were down. They would never have done so while U.S. troops remained in Afghanistan bearing the brunt of the fighting for them. And our true strategic competitors, China and Russia, would love nothing more than the United States to continue to funnel billions of dollars in resources and attention into stabilizing Afghanistan indefinitely.

When I hosted President Ghani and Chairman Abdullah at the White House in June, and again when I spoke by phone to Ghani in July, we had very frank conversations. We talked about how Afghanistan should prepare to fight their civil wars after the U.S. military departed. To clean up the corruption in government so the government could function for the Afghan people. We talked extensively about the need for Afghan leaders to unite politically. They failed to do any of that. I also urged them to engage in diplomacy, to seek a political settlement with the Taliban. This advice was flatly refused. Mr. Ghani insisted the Afghan forces would fight, but obviously he was wrong.





Ok, Mr. Ghani was wrong. That's it? We have been there for 20 years, closely involved with the Afghan military and the Afghan government, and the defense is "Well, golly gee, Mr. Ghani was wrong, what's a guy to do?"



Biden did not say "golly gee" but his defense of his actions has been absurd. The way the withdrawal was handled will have major consequences, his dodging of responsibility will not lessen this.


The US needs to think of the past 20 years and see what we can learn. And of other errors as well. Errors abound. But specifically about the withdrawal, that's on Biden.
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#25 User is offline   Winstonm 

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Posted 2021-August-17, 08:52

Yes, Biden ordered the withdrawal. It was always going to be ugly. How ugly? No one knows. All else is speculation.
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#26 User is offline   kenberg 

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Posted 2021-August-17, 09:34

View PostWinstonm, on 2021-August-17, 08:52, said:

Yes, Biden ordered the withdrawal. It was always going to be ugly. How ugly? No one knows. All else is speculation.


You have accurately summarized the Biden defense in three short sentences.

Speculate? I speculate that this defense will not sit well with many people of varied political views.
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#27 User is offline   Winstonm 

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Posted 2021-August-17, 09:55

View Postkenberg, on 2021-August-17, 09:34, said:

You have accurately summarized the Biden defense in three short sentences.

Speculate? I speculate that this defense will not sit well with many people of varied political views.


I noticed the media was quick to put John Bolton on air to criticize the failure to continue the war. Is that the solution?

Seriously, though, Biden gave what is probably the most honest speech ever by a politician. The collapse surprised the intelligence and the army it seems, and you are only as good as your advisors.

Still, the problems of this collapse always go back to starting a war with no end game plan in mind. Because of that, it had to be messy.

I strongly recommend reading Andrew Bacevich to get an idea of the limits of American military power and our misguided insistence that we can nation build our way to worldwide capitalism in our own image.
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#28 User is online   hrothgar 

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Posted 2021-August-17, 10:05

Here's the real Biden defense

1. Two months ago no one (or almost no one) had a clue that the Afghan army would collapse in a matter of weeks.
2. All of our time tables were predicted on having 12 - 18 months to wind down in Afghanistan
3. Implementing contingency plans based on the assumption that the Afghan government would have collapsed in August would have accelerated the very changes that we wanted to avoid.

All you smart guys and girls pissing and moaning about what happened...
Show me what you were doing / saying two months back.

Let's start with you Mike Pompeo, because we have plenty of clips from you back in June complaining that the US wasn't pulling its troops out quickly enough.

FWIW, I'm thinking back to where my head was at in the late Spring / early Summer.
I didn't believe Biden's claims that the Afghan government was going to be able to hold out against the Taliban. (For that matter, I'm not sure whether Biden believed those claims). However, I sure the hell never expected that things would move this quickly. And I don't think that anyone else did either.

So, personally, while I am sorry that Biden didn't get this right, I'm sure as hell not going to get that worked up about it.
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#29 User is offline   mycroft 

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Posted 2021-August-17, 10:14

We knew it was going to be horrible. We knew in particular that for people who "collaborated with the Occupation", it was going to be horrible.

We also knew it needed to be done. Not doing it was just lower-grade horrible for longer.

The question should be, what are we doing to make it less horrible, for everyone if possible, but definitely for the people that helped the U.S./Canada/U.K./...?

I notice that we're in Election Season up here as of Sunday. Given that all parties, but especially the Liberals and the Conservatives, were responsible for creating some of this problem, we need to hear from them how they are planning on paying it back. Given that there are about 20 days in each cycle where the U.S. isn't in Election Season, I think it's an appropriate question there too.
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#30 User is offline   Gilithin 

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Posted 2021-August-17, 10:34

View Postkenberg, on 2021-August-17, 08:09, said:

Earlier in this thread there was a percentage assessment of responsibility in which Biden was given 10% of the blame. I, and from what I am seeing many others from across the political spectrum, look at it differently. For the first 19 of the 20 years Biden has little or no responsibility. He was Veep for 8 years but Veep is the dictionary example of a nobody.

People always pay far too much attention to the current administration and not enough to what came before. The most common example of that is in the economy but it can also apply to foreign policy in some circumstances. Afghanistan is one such example.

I already explained why the withdrawal was pre-programmed to be a disaster as soon as the secret negotiations started, and even more so after Doha. There is only so much that can be done once an avalanche starts. To take your 19:1 maths and turn it into bridge terms, let's say Opener starts with a strong 1 and Responder makes 19 false relay bids, completely misdescribing their hand. At the end of the auction Opener places the contract badly and it goes down for a huge minus. What would be your ATB scores?

I actually think that 10% for Biden is, if anything, too high and Bush's 60% too low, but I will stand by them as nice round numbers. Those with a short attention span, or with a predisposition not to see fault in Republican decisions, will no doubt give Biden 100% of the blame. But I would like to think that the majority of posters here are informed enough to understand the realities of the last 30 or so years and therefore able to go beyond "it happened in 2021 so Biden owns it". There is plenty of blame to go around but it is absolutely clear that the vast majority of it should go to the GOP. But you are right, many Americans across the political spectrum will see it differently - sheep are sheep.
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#31 User is offline   kenberg 

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Posted 2021-August-17, 10:53

View Posthrothgar, on 2021-August-17, 10:05, said:

Here's the real Biden defense

1. Two months ago no one (or almost no one) had a clue that the Afghan army would collapse in a matter of weeks.
2. All of our time tables were predicted on having 12 - 18 months to wind down in Afghanistan
3. Implementing contingency plans based on the assumption that the Afghan government would have collapsed in August would have accelerated the very changes that we wanted to avoid.

All you smart guys and girls pissing and moaning about what happened...
Show me what you were doing / saying two months back.

Let's start with you Mike Pompeo, because we have plenty of clips from you back in June complaining that the US wasn't pulling its troops out quickly enough.

FWIW, I'm thinking back to where my head was at in the late Spring / early Summer.
I didn't believe Biden's claims that the Afghan government was going to be able to hold out against the Taliban. (For that matter, I'm not sure whether Biden believed those claims). However, I sure the hell never expected that things would move this quickly. And I don't think that anyone else did either.

So, personally, while I am sorry that Biden didn't get this right, I'm sure as hell not going to get that worked up about it.


I agree that this is a fuller presentation of Biden's defense.
How worked up will people get? I want to approach that differently.

Your points 1, and 2 largely coalesce.
If the thinking was that it would take 12-16 months for the Taliban to do what they have now done then someone made a mistake. Ghani made a mistake but he is not part of the Biden administration.
If the thinking was "Well, we have a year before anything substantive will happen" then to me this seems naive but never mind about me. We need to know just who in the administration took this rosy view. JB did not call me for advice and I am fine with that.

I would think that if the Afghan military was just holding on, and really not even doing that in a steady-state, with US support then when we withdraw that support the collapse might be rather rapid. In looking at what happened, I might start there. Just how, when they are losing ground with our support, do we expect them to hold out for another year w/o our support? I am not suggesting we put me in this debate. But there are people who are supposed to be good at analysis and who have been involved in our plans for 20 years. I would like to hear just how they got this so wrong.

I also wonder if anyone in the high-level discussions, at any time, said something akin to "I understand you are thinking 12-16 months but I am thinking maybe we should prepare for the possibility that maybe, just maybe, your estimate is optimistic. Maybe very optimistic".


Right now as others here and elsewhere have said, we have to do our very best to get those who have been with us in action out of Afghanistan and to some anonymous spot like they do with the Witness Protection Program. That's first on the agenda. But it's not the only thing that we need to do.

Just as an aside, but to me a big deal. I want Jane Ferguson on the next plane out of Kabul. For those who don't watch PBS, she is an incredibly courageous reporter. Where the action is, Jane Ferguson is. I was watching PBS Newshour last night and as I was listening to her I was ready to shout "Jane, get on the ******* plane. Now"
Ken
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#32 User is offline   Gilithin 

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Posted 2021-August-17, 11:33

View Postkenberg, on 2021-August-17, 10:53, said:

If the thinking was that it would take 12-16 months for the Taliban to do what they have now done then someone made a mistake. Ghani made a mistake but he is not part of the Biden administration.

I am not sure where your 12-16 months comes from. The original US estimate was 6-12 months with a worst-case scenario of 3 months. US planning seems to have been based off of this timetable. The bigger question mark to me is why less than a week ago the estimate was still 1-3 months despite the Afghan military simply melting away pretty much everywhere. Despite the accusations and blame aimed at them, one can hardly blame them as most had not been paid for months and some not even provided with food. There certainly seems to be a disconnect here between the military planners and the actual state on the ground. Ideally there would now be a review of how that process went so wrong and how to improve it. Sadly for the US, it's political system suggests it is much more likely that any review will revolve around trying to stick, or deflect, blame onto/from Biden and his administration.
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#33 User is offline   Winstonm 

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Posted 2021-August-17, 11:39

One of the problems is our media - whether Fox or MSNBC - painting the picture of a 12-16 month expected collapse when the reality is that it was down to 1 month to 90 days.

Quote

One official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the issue’s sensitivity, said Tuesday that the U.S. military now assesses a collapse could occur within 90 days. Others said it could happen within a month. Some officials said that although they were not authorized to discuss the assessment, they see the situation in Afghanistan as more dire than it was in June, when intelligence officials assessed a fall could come as soon as six months after the withdrawal of the U.S. military.


And the slow motion to overnight collapse came after months of Taliban buying off government forces in a "cease fire".




Quote

The spectacular collapse of Afghanistan’s military that allowed Taliban fighters to walk into the Afghan capital Sunday despite 20 years of training and billions of dollars in American aid began with a series of deals brokered in rural villages between the militant group and some of the Afghan government’s lowest-ranking officials.

The deals, initially offered early last year, were often described by Afghan officials as cease-fires, but Taliban leaders were in fact offering money in exchange for government forces to hand over their weapons, according to an Afghan officer and a U.S. official.

Over the next year and a half, the meetings advanced to the district level and then rapidly on to provincial capitals, culminating in a breathtaking series of negotiated surrenders by government forces, according to interviews with more than a dozen Afghan officers, police, special operations troops and other soldiers.




Whether these facts were known and presented to Biden is unknown.
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#34 User is online   hrothgar 

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Posted 2021-August-17, 11:47

View PostWinstonm, on 2021-August-17, 11:39, said:

One of the problems is our media - whether Fox or MSNBC - painting the picture of a 12-16 month expected collapse when the reality is that it was down to 1 month to 90 days.




Its really easy to find a small number of people who will claim most anything.

The fact that someone exists (and they happened to be right) doesn't mean that much...
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#35 User is offline   kenberg 

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Posted 2021-August-17, 11:53

View PostGilithin, on 2021-August-17, 11:33, said:

I am not sure where your 12-16 months comes from. The original US estimate was 6-12 months with a worst-case scenario of 3 months. US planning seems to have been based off of this timetable. The bigger question mark to me is why less than a week ago the estimate was still 1-3 months despite the Afghan military simply melting away pretty much everywhere. Despite the accusations and blame aimed at them, one can hardly blame them as most has not been paid for months and some not even provided with food. There certainly seems to be a disconnect here between the military planners and the actual state on the ground. Ideally there would now be a review of how that process went so wrong and how to improve it. Sadly for the US, it's political system suggests it is much more likely that any review will revolve around trying to stick, or deflect, blame onto/from Biden and his administration.


I used the 12-16 from Richard's post that I was responding to. I am very willing to believe the estimate was once 12-16, then shorter, then shorter still. The incredible shrinking time span. I did not want to get bogged down with whatever interval was being postulated at any particular time. The Biden defense has been "No one thought it would be this fast" and that's what I want to get at as something we should be asking.

I have not followed this closely enough to have a clear idea of what was being predicted when but what you say above can be seen as reasonable grounds for skepticism about a long gap between our withdrawal and a Talinab takeover.

The withdrawal was hugely important. Ultimately, I am saying that if nobody predicted the rapid collapse, we need to ask how this could be. Successful policy needs accurate prediction of consequences.
"Nobody could have foreseen this" is not adequate.


I realize, or at least I believe, that much of what you are saying goes along fine with what I am saying and in fact it could be part of the eventual accounting. We pay people a lot of money and we give them power and prestige. In return, they are supposed to get things right. If they do not, it is fair to ask what happened.
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#36 User is offline   Winstonm 

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Posted 2021-August-17, 12:46

View Postkenberg, on 2021-August-17, 11:53, said:

I used the 12-16 from Richard's post that I was responding to. I am very willing to believe the estimate was once 12-16, then shorter, then shorter still. The incredible shrinking time span. I did not want to get bogged down with whatever interval was being postulated at any particular time. The Biden defense has been "No one thought it would be this fast" and that's what I want to get at as something we should be asking.

I have not followed this closely enough to have a clear idea of what was being predicted when but what you say above can be seen as reasonable grounds for skepticism about a long gap between our withdrawal and a Talinab takeover.

The withdrawal was hugely important. Ultimately, I am saying that if nobody predicted the rapid collapse, we need to ask how this could be. Successful policy needs accurate prediction of consequences.
"Nobody could have foreseen this" is not adequate.


I realize, or at least I believe, that much of what you are saying goes along fine with what I am saying and in fact it could be part of the eventual accounting. We pay people a lot of money and we give them power and prestige. In return, they are supposed to get things right. If they do not, it is fair to ask what happened.


I think perhaps the most fair question of all is why were we there for 20 years?
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#37 User is offline   Gilithin 

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Posted 2021-August-17, 13:12

View Postkenberg, on 2021-August-17, 11:53, said:

I used the 12-16 from Richard's post that I was responding to. I am very willing to believe the estimate was once 12-16, then shorter, then shorter still. The incredible shrinking time span. I did not want to get bogged down with whatever interval was being postulated at any particular time. The Biden defense has been "No one thought it would be this fast" and that's what I want to get at as something we should be asking.

I have not followed this closely enough to have a clear idea of what was being predicted when but what you say above can be seen as reasonable grounds for skepticism about a long gap between our withdrawal and a Talinab takeover.

The withdrawal was hugely important. Ultimately, I am saying that if nobody predicted the rapid collapse, we need to ask how this could be. Successful policy needs accurate prediction of consequences.
"Nobody could have foreseen this" is not adequate.


I realize, or at least I believe, that much of what you are saying goes along fine with what I am saying and in fact it could be part of the eventual accounting. We pay people a lot of money and we give them power and prestige. In return, they are supposed to get things right. If they do not, it is fair to ask what happened.

The withdrawal was ordered in April. The 6-12 month estimate comes from a review in June following a Taliban offensive. Prior to this there was no official estimate for a Taliban takeover. Also in June were widespread reports of government forces being paid off to go home and leave their military equipment behind, with most of those forces not having been paid for several months. It is likely that these conditions were widely known, and perhaps in some quarters reported, before June but the Taliban offensive and US review are what caused them to be so widely reported by MSM.

As per the previous post, I agree that the immediate lessons to come from this lie in the origins and methods behind this false planning intelligence, but you are still focusing exclusively on the here and now. To properly apportion blame you really need to look at Afghan history from at least 1989. But just looking at 2001, a year that is surely etched into every American's memory - what were the goals of the war in Afghanistan? Was it to defeat Al Qaeda? Well that goal was accomplished after 6 months - more of less the entire organisation had fled the country by then. Or was it nation-building? Bush did almost nothing for that. Defeating the Taliban? After the initial surge, Bush (and Rumsfeld) pretty much only wanted to defend those gains. Something else? Just after the war Bush stated the objective to be: "This particular battle front will last as long as it takes to bring Al Qaeda to justice". Later on though it all got a little nebulous with noone seeming to be able to give any clear answers.

The point here is that the time to leave Afghanistan was 6-12 months after going there and the only person that could have ordered that was W. But the war was popular - voters were still angry about 9/11 and leaving without OBL having been caught would have been unpopular. So the US found excuses to stay. And thus the US did precisely what Bush had said clearly would not happen - "initial success followed by long years of floundering and ultimate failure." And this is why not giving majority blame to #43 is just wrong and why the biggest lessons to be learnt from Afghanistan (as well as Iraq for that matter) are in terms of planning specific military goals before a campaign and understanding what conditions need to be met before withdrawing. This is how the USA will avoid similar events occurring in the future.
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#38 User is offline   Winstonm 

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Posted 2021-August-17, 14:25

View PostGilithin, on 2021-August-17, 13:12, said:

.... the biggest lessons to be learnt from Afghanistan (as well as Iraq for that matter) are in terms of planning specific military goals before a campaign and understanding what conditions need to be met before withdrawing. This is how the USA will avoid similar events occurring in the future.


I cut you down to this section to emphasize how similar are your comments to the entire thrust of the book by Andrew Bacevich, The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism
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#39 User is offline   cherdano 

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Posted 2021-August-17, 17:01

View Postkenberg, on 2021-August-17, 09:34, said:

You have accurately summarized the Biden defense in three short sentences.

Speculate? I speculate that this defense will not sit well with many people of varied political views.

It certainly won't go well with pundits on cable news. I bet you can hear all about that day-in day-out if you make the mistake of watching it.
But regular voters? I think within a few months, most of them will just be happy that the withdrawal happened.

Personally, I find it a devastating outcome for Afghans. And I feel ashamed how little help many Western countries (including, and perhaps especially the UK) have given those endangered by the Taliban to escape. But otherwise I doubt a withdrawal planned by someone with better foresight could have achieved much better results. Once you plan to leave, what is the goal?
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#40 User is online   Chas_P 

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Posted 2021-August-17, 19:05

View Postcherdano, on 2021-August-17, 17:01, said:

It certainly won't go well with pundits on cable news. I bet you can hear all about that day-in day-out if you make the mistake of watching it.

I agree. Casting aspersions does nothing to relieve suffering.
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