From Charles Pierce of Esquire:
“I Find It Hard to Care About the Domestic Political Fallout of Today’s Bombing in Kabul”
I really thought I’d asked this question for the last time, or at least for the last time for the foreseeable future, but what in the hell are we still doing in Afghanistan? Twelve more American servicemen dead. Fifteen more wounded. “Scores” of Afghan civilians, too, although they apparently don’t rate a precise published body count. From The New York Times:
One Afghan health official said at least 60 people were confirmed dead and at least 140 wounded. Another health official said at least 40 were dead and 120 wounded. Both officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because the Taliban told them not to brief the press, they said. The Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, condemned the attack, and said that at least 13 civilians had been killed and 60 wounded. In one part of one hospital alone, a New York Times journalist saw dozens of severely wounded or killed people.There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blasts. But the night before, a senior U.S. official warned of a “specific” and “credible” threat at the airport by an affiliate of the Islamic State, the Islamic State Khorasan, or ISIS-K, and Western governments began urging people to leave the area. Even with such a specific warning, military officials said, it would be very difficult to pick out a suicide bomber with a concealed explosive vest in a huge throng of people, like that at the airport.
The courage of the American soldiers and sailors doing this duty is almost beyond comprehension. To screen people headed for the evacuation aircraft properly, they have to get within arms length—to “look them in the eye,” as General Kenneth McKenzie said mournfully in his press briefing Thursday afternoon. It is possible that the last thing that an American soldier will see on earth is the wiring of a suicide vest. For that matter, the courage of the people trying to evacuate is not to be minimized either. They are sitting out there in the open, many of them with their families and their children, old and young. They are risking it all out there in what is essentially an open field of fire. They are not out there out of their own careful choices, many of them. They are out there because there’s no place else to be in that country.
At his briefing McKenzie was asked if he “trusted” the Taliban and if he was sure that the Taliban wasn’t ultimately behind Thursday’s attacks. McKenzie allowed that trust “was not a word” he would necessarily use in this context, but he did mention that the Taliban would like to eliminate the ISIS franchisee—“ISIS-K” as it seems to be known—that allegedly carried out the attacks. At the moment, from what we know, an alliance between the Taliban and ISIS-K seems unlikely. Which means that, by historical precedent, we ought to watch out for the people who are peddling the notion. One of them was retired General H.R. McMaster, who was all over TV mongering endless war on Thursday, accusing Biden of having surrendered to terrorists, and failing to mention that, on his watch, hundreds died in ISIL-sponsored bombings, including 150 people in one shot in 2017 when a truck bomb detonated in front of the German Embassy. Oh, beware of anyone pitching this line. They’ll be mumbling about aluminum tubes and yellowcake from Niger next.
As far as domestic political fallout, I find it hard to care a great deal about it since we all know what’s going to happen. The Republicans are going to barbecue the facts and fillet history to score points out of pure mendacity. The Democrats are going to have just enough ambivalence in their ranks that they won’t be able to respond in kind, and the elite political press will waver between I Told You So and Biden Doomed. The president, I hope, sticks to his guns, not simply because millions of Americans agree with what he’s doing, but also because of those people waiting out at the airport and the troops guarding them. Their courage demands a coherent plan of action, and not some ill-considered blathering from retired brass hats in the peanut gallery. Lord, we seriously need a new national-security establishment.
American casualties have been light recently because the former president made a deal with the Taliban, which included us leaving by March 31 and setting free 5,000 of their fighters. But somebody didn’t agree that we and our associates should be allowed to leave peacefully.
Two comments I left elsewhere:
Even commentators who recognize the insanity of a 20-year war that was destined to be lost say the situation in Kabul is chaotic and the evacuation has been a catastrophic debacle. We’re going through a mainstream media freakout. What would a successful evacuation have looked like? A million Afghans and westerners each given a plane ticket and calmly taking their place in line, while the previous Afghan government remained in power and the Taliban coolly observed from outside Kabul’s city limits? Everyone who thinks evacuating 100,000 people with so little loss of life has been carried out so badly, even with today’s bomb going off, should be required to explain just how they would have done it and why it all would have worked out so well.
A quote from one observer: “This was the 25th terror attack in Afghanistan since the beginning of last year and the first that is getting more than passing mention in the US press. They included an attack on a maternity ward that killed 24 and another attack on a school that killed 90”. Today’s attack was horrendous, but how many Afghan civilians and American soldiers have died while we tried turning the country into a western democracy? How many more would die or be maimed if we stayed? If only we’d made Afghanistan the 51st state, all would have been fine.