Opinion | Is Leaving Afghanistan the Right Move?

To the Editor:

Re “Biden Ditches the Generals, Finally,” by Maureen Dowd (column, April 18):

President Biden’s decision to remove the remaining American troops from Afghanistan is necessary and right, but tragic nonetheless. It’s necessary and right because the war is unwinnable at any level of troop strength.

We may mourn the tragedy that will unfold when the Taliban again seize power, but should it be Americans’ job to avert that eventuality indefinitely? I for one am not about to volunteer for that mission, and I don’t feel that the brave women and men of our armed forces should be forced to either.

It’s tragic for many reasons, not least because there are many wonderful people in Kabul who will be the target of a Taliban blood bath and a return to Taliban barbarism. We can expect that women will again lose all rights and be forbidden to work, and that schools for girls will be closed. To mitigate this disaster, President Biden should immediately establish a sizable quota for Afghan refugees and asylum seekers.

Ed Gogol
Crystal Lake, Ill.

To the Editor:

While I largely agree with Maureen Dowd’s analysis, she leaves something out that is absolutely key to understanding NATO’s failures in Afghanistan: President George W. Bush’s decision to turn from finishing the job there to invading Iraq.

As a member of the Task Force on Terrorism Finance, I remember quite vividly how the dedicated civil servants in the U.S. Treasury were forced to pivot from building an effective strategy for combating terrorism financing to preparing for the Iraq invasion. I also remember the radical change in attitude toward the United States by staff from virtually every country: from strong support to actual disdain.

It isn’t only that the Afghan invasion would have turned out quite differently had the over 150,000 service people sent to invade and occupy Iraq been instead sent to Afghanistan. Resources spent on Iraq could have been mobilized against terror financing, including stopping financial support heading to the Taliban.

Richard K. Gordon
Bethany, Conn.
The writer, former senior counsel at the International Monetary Fund, is a professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Law.

To the Editor:

Re “Abandoning Afghanistan Is a Huge Error,” by Bret Stephens (column, April 20):

Perhaps Mr. Stephens should ask service members who did up to five tours in Afghanistan what they think of President Biden’s decision to finally leave a war with no end in sight and no military solution.

Twenty years is not cutting and running. Bringing the troops home from yet another deadly quagmire is not without risks, but they pale compared with the prospect of permanent war in a place where no victory is possible.

Robin R. Meyers
Oklahoma City
The writer is a retired minister.

To the Editor:

Bret Stephens makes an eloquent case for a misguided notion that has sunk the United States into multiple foreign policy quagmires: that U.S. behavior in one part of the world will serve as a useful signal to allies and enemies about what the U.S. will do elsewhere.

Mr. Stephens is right to point out that U.S. withdrawal will likely have tragic consequences for many Afghans, which should not be minimized. It is absurd, however, to think that either Moscow or Beijing are taking cues from whether the United States stands up to the Taliban, when both have richly benefited from the U.S. being bogged down in its forever wars.

Mr. Stephens asks whether Ukrainians and Taiwanese will “find comfort” in the Afghanistan withdrawal. My bet is that they will. Over the last two decades, nothing has more threatened the credibility of U.S. deterrence in Eastern Europe and East Asia than being tied down in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Deterrence theorists would tell Mr. Stephens that overcommitment jeopardizes credibility just as much as underdelivery.

Andi Zhou
Berkeley, Calif.

To the Editor:

There’s an unexamined aspect of the Biden administration’s decision in Bret Stephens’s analysis: To what degree does the continued presence of American soldiers actually perpetuate the deterioration of the Afghan government’s position? Could it have anything to do with the Afghans’ long history of strong aversion to foreigners within their country?

Why is government support among the Afghan people declining? How is it that after decades of conflict the Taliban continue to attract fighters? You can argue from the safety of the United States that their choice is a terrible one, especially for women, but it is their choice. Recognize that. Leave now.

Bill Lindenfelser
Rochester, N.Y.

To the Editor:

Re “I Was With Biden in Kabul in 2002,” by Thomas L. Friedman (column, April 21):

Mr. Friedman’s conclusion that “our nation’s effort there was worth a try” is contradicted by historical fact. Our invasion following the 9/11 attacks was sold by the administration as an effort to apprehend or kill the perpetrators. The real effort, however, became one of nation building, importing a Jeffersonian democracy at the point of a gun.

This was a public failure 40 years earlier in Vietnam, a failure analyzed and documented at every level of our government and society at large. Our Afghanistan effort never had a chance at success and was clearly never worth a try.

Eric R. Carey
Arlington, Va.

To the Editor:

Like Thomas L. Friedman, “I wonder if we have become more like the Afghans and not the Afghans more like us.”

I have little doubt that Vladimir Putin’s Russia will take advantage of the vacuum our leaving creates, just as it has been taking advantage of our divisiveness.

I feel for those young Afghans whom Mr. Friedman met 20 years ago, filled with so much hope and determination. Where are they now? And I wonder about us then. As we looked for a foundation upon which to build greater stability, could we have ever found it while looking to build a nation in our image, not theirs? I wonder where those young Afghans full of hope would have looked, and if they told us, whether we would have listened.

And what if we had only ventured into Afghanistan, where we had reason to be, and not into Iraq, where we had no business going? Might that have changed the odds of our success?

Diana M. Smith
Weston, Mass.
The writer is the founder of the Actionsmith Network, which promotes societal renewal.

To the Editor:

Although we went to war in Afghanistan, we are not at war. We are bolstering the law enforcement of a democracy; we are essentially an auxiliary police.

Wars end; criminal activities never do, and we shouldn’t expect them to. We do not wring our hands in frustration that the United States still has crime; our police forces can only limit it, not eliminate it.

The ongoing cost of policing the Taliban is piddling compared with the costs in national security that will accrue from a hostile Taliban-ruled nation.

And that’s not even factoring in the human cost — the civilians who will be tortured and killed if the Taliban effect regime change. We jump-started a democracy in a hostile landscape; why ignore our success? And why toss it away simply because bad actors persist?

Alice Leiner

To the Editor:

I believe the fact that we had a military draft during the Vietnam War contributed to the timing of our exit from that conflict. Almost every American family had or could have had skin in that game, and thus a never-ending bloody stalemate became inconceivable. I wonder if our Afghanistan quagmire would have gone on for so long if instead of a military made up of volunteers, any son (or daughter) had faced being drafted to risk their life or limb “nation-building” in Afghanistan or Iraq.

Fred L. Feldman
Marblehead, Mass.

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