I don’t think they’re inclined to comply. They’ve got themselves quite a haul…
کندهار هوایي میدان pic.twitter.com/243LqRjwhM
— Agha Jan (@Agha_khapalwak) August 30, 2021
— Heshmat Alavi (@HeshmatAlavi) August 30, 2021
…and it looks like they’re putting it to use:
Taliban hanging someone from a helicopter in Kandahar pic.twitter.com/TwCkVzUrnL
— Old Holborn® (@Holbornlolz) August 30, 2021
This graphic circulated over the weekend illustrating the scale of the materiel they’ve inherited. It is, literally and by design, enough to supply an army:
It’s inexcusable that billions of dollars worth of military equipment, vehicles and aircraft have fallen into the hands of the Taliban. Many of these items will be sold to our adversaries across the globe. The Biden Admin continues to fail America. pic.twitter.com/YgNCseSg3O
— Rep. Stephanie Bice (@RepBice) August 30, 2021
With Americans aghast that their taxpayer dollars have ended up arming the Taliban, Trump sensed a political opportunity and issued the statement below this morning. It proves my point from Friday that MAGA foreign policy prizes dominance and perceptions of strength over its alleged commitment to isolationism and “ending endless wars”:
What does “unequivocal military force” mean? Does he mean reinvading Afghanistan to secure our equipment — amidst a withdrawal?
Restarting endless wars, in other words?
And which equipment does he have in mind? Maybe we could have landed troops with pilots at Afghan airfields to fly out the aircraft we left them or launched airstrikes on the fleet of remaining helicopters in order to deny the Taliban their use once the Afghan army fell apart. But let’s be real: It’s not the aircraft that’ll most benefit them. It’s the small arms and ground transport, and there are lots of those left. How many American troops would Trump have been willing to risk in ordering “unequivocal military force” to try to regain those assets?
And what would we have done if the Taliban had said, “If you bomb anything or move your troops outside the airport, we’ll kill every American civilian and Afghan ally we can find and start attacking the airport to end the evacuation”? What happens to the American soldiers inside the airport in that case, where they’re surrounded and can’t be resupplied?
There’s no scenario here, I think, where Biden could have evacuated our equipment sooner. The choppers, humvees, and guns were all left behind for use by the Afghan army in what was hoped to be a long-ish war against the Taliban. If we started disarming them on our way out, signaling that we didn’t believe they could win, they would have disintegrated for sure — and then we’d be lambasting Biden for not having given the Afghans a fighting chance. So he left the guns and hoped for the best and ended up with an army that disintegrated anyway after we hurriedly withdrew logistical support like air cover, intelligence, and maintenance en route to the exit. What would Trump have done differently?
Some Trump administration alumni and others who remember his policy of negotiating with the Taliban have grumbled to reporters that tough talk is cheap after the fact:
In an interview with CNN on Wednesday, former Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said that, while President Biden “owns” the ultimate outcome in Afghanistan, Mr. Trump had earlier “undermined” the agreement through his barely disguised impatience to exit the country with little apparent regard for the consequences. That included an October 2020 declaration by Mr. Trump that he wanted the 5,000 American troops then in Afghanistan home by Christmas…
Mr. Trump has suggested broadly that he would have overseen “a much different and much more successful withdrawal,” even though in the closing months of his presidency, he repeatedly pressured his generals and national security aides to accelerate the process…
And he has claimed that he would have ensured mass evacuations from Afghanistan, even though aides say he never focused on the issue…
“If he was serious about including evacuation or relocation as part of our military withdrawal, I think he would have set a longer timeline and we would have heard about it” from federal officials, [International Refugee Assistance Project director Sunil] Varghese said.
The source of all of our problems with this evacuation is the fact that the Afghan army collapsed so rapidly. If they had managed to hold off the Taliban even for a few months, conceivably many thousands more Afghans and every last American in Kabul would have gotten out in a timely way. That being so, we’re left with a simple question: What reason is there to believe the Afghan army would have held out longer under Trump, who wanted out even sooner (May 1) than Biden, than it did under the current president?
Would Trump’s intelligence bureaus have recognized the impending implosion of Afghan forces before Biden’s did and accelerated the evacuations? That’s hard to believe since most of the people who work for those bureaus are careerists who were there under Trump and are still there under Biden. But let’s say that Trump’s CIA *did* warn him that the Afghan army was weaker than everyone thought and that the Taliban might be in Kabul within a week of hostilities commencing. What would Trump and MAGA have said?
You know what they would have said. The deep state can’t bear to end its endless wars so now they’re lying to Trump to try to scare him into canceling the withdrawal.
And so his statement about bombing and “unequivocal military force” is just standard Trump bravado and bluster, not anything to be taken seriously strategically. He already proved with the Kurds in Syria that he has no qualms about abandoning American allies in the interest of putting America First and bringing U.S. troops home. There’s no reason to think the Afghan withdrawal would have been any less rapid. And as for the U.S. military equipment the Taliban would have inherited, Trump would have had a ready answer for that: “We can always build more guns and helicopters but we can’t replace our wonderful soldiers and Marines. Enough American deaths! Let’s come home ASAP!” And MAGA would have saluted.
What are your thoughts on the story? Let us know in the comments below!