As the news rapidly unfurled over the weekend over the capture of Kabul by the Taliban, as well as the plight of the Afghan residents, I found myself filled with worry and concern – how could our country's dramatic and sudden evacuation from Kabul and all of Afghanistan happen so fast? How could we have been fighting against the Taliban for 20 years and then see their army walk in and take over Kabul without shooting a shot?
Was this really a surprise for our president? Or did our government officials secretly suspect all along that this is the way our occupation would end? We were told they had made "plans." Well, if they did, they were the wrong plans. The executive branch was warned by others several times during the past year, according to news reports, but evidently, paid little attention to the power and wiliness of the Taliban army.
In large part this sudden unexpected collapse is because some of our officials have been filled with self-confident hubris, and assured others that they knew what to do in this foreign country and understood what the Afghan culture is and what these people want and need.
But they did not know or understand.
We knew for years we were fighting in a distant country some 7,400 miles away from our home here, but we were assured that things were getting better. I can still hear our generals repeated refrains --– “Just 2,000 more troops and we’ll be able to take control of the area ... Just 5,000 more troops and we can gain a stronghold ... We've invested so much in this country that we can't leave now ... Our reports are showing we have success in sight."
But we didn’t succeed. And we weren't told the truth. For 20 years we didn’t ask about what was happening “over there.” Originally, we went over there to go after the terrorists who were part of that now infamous day in our country's history: 9-11. We then got involved in a war in Iraq we created, and then undertook a new purpose: to establish a democratic stronghold in Afghanistan.
And now the purpose has disappeared we are gone.
Like others, I feel terrible about the translators left behind, and all the others who helped us. And yes, I grieve for the future females who will be at the mercy of the Taliban males – the females will be their forced slaves.
Our president said this past Monday that our country will now double down and help those translators et al to exit Afghanistan. But Biden didn’t say how he would accomplish that. The Kabul airport is almost surrounded as I write, the roads to the airport are filled with armed Taliban soldiers, there are thousands who want to leave Afghanistan. But despite these presidential promises, deep down we know we will never be able to get all the translators, allies ad workers safely out.
It is ultimately tragic, and a morally wrong way to have acted. We broke our promises.
So we can sit here in Palo Alto, asking our questions of how did this happen, what went wrong, why weren’t we told, who can we trust.
Those questions will probably remain unanswered for months, or years. But unfortunately and unintentionally, we will also have a long and hard time to again gain the support of others.