Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., is speaking out in favor of extending America’s longest war, even as most Americans overwhelmingly favor pulling out of Afghanistan. Kinzinger recently gave an interview to NBC’s Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press” in which he lamented America’s looming withdrawal from Afghanistan and compared the 20-year war to a simple peacekeeping mission.
“I’m proud of the American people for sticking by this mission for 20 years. We actually needed to do it longer,” said Kinzinger.
President Biden says the military mission in Afghanistan will conclude on August 31, and America’s withdrawal is already 90 percent complete. By getting America out of Afghanistan, Biden is accomplishing something President Trump talked about doing during his term but was ultimately unable to accomplish.
Even before America’s withdrawal started, the Afghan government based in Kabul began losing ground to the Taliban as its fighters—the U.S.-trained Afghan National Security Forces, or ANSF—began laying down their arms. Since early May, the Taliban has seized more than a quarter of the country’s 421 districts. Meanwhile, Afghan military leaders complain that they didn’t have a plan for when the United States leaves, even though before Biden, Trump ordered or sought an Afghanistan withdrawal on several occasions.
Kinzinger and other interventionists say the Taliban suddenly gaining ground is all America’s fault. “We only had 2,500 troops there, 5,000 NATO troops, and the Afghanistan government was doing 98 percent of the fighting against the Taliban. It’s no wonder they’re collapsing when the U.S. says, ‘We’re gone.’ But it was really a small price to pay for frankly holding off the inevitable bad that unfortunately we’re going to see,” Kinzinger said to Todd.
This argument is extremely silly. The reality is that Afghanistan is far more than a peacekeeping mission. America has spent hundreds of billions to nation-build in that country, and 2,312 U.S. military personnel have been killed there, along with more than 71,000 civilians.
Despite our efforts, the situation on the ground didn’t change for years, and before America even started to withdraw, the Taliban controlled the same tracts of land that it did years ago. But America’s generals misled the public about the war, saying there was progress when internally they knew there was none.
The government America is backing simply may not have the support of a large enough portion of the population. That’s partly because Afghanistan is much more complicated than good versus bad, and much more complex than a choice between the Taliban instituting strict Islamic law and little girls going to school.
Many Afghan officials defended by American soldiers are completely corrupt, and many warlords and Afghan security forces practice ritual child abuse called bacha bazi, or “boy play.” American soldiers have been instructed not to intervene. One soldier, Gregory Buckley Jr., told his father he could hear Afghan police officers sexually abusing boys they had brought to the base.
“At night we can hear them screaming, but we’re not allowed to do anything about it,” he told his father. Buckley Jr. was killed when one of the boys got ahold of a gun and shot up the base. Another U.S. soldier, Dan Quinn, was relieved of his command after he had a fight with a U.S.-backed militia leader because the warlord had a boy chained to his bed.
Even the narrative about staying in Afghanistan to fight terror is mistaken. Twenty years since 9/11, the United States has improved its ability to monitor and disrupt terror groups, through raids and precision strikes when needed. Going forward, America can use diplomacy and a targeted approach to take on terror, not permanent boots on the ground.
Step back and add everything together. If the narrative of good versus evil falls flat, if there is no anti-terror objective, if the Afghan security forces aren’t willing to fight because the government has little popular support, and if the whole situation is hanging by a thread without America’s endless commitment, then America really shouldn’t be there.
In the end, all America’s troops and dollars can’t build a cohesive peaceful democracy out of nothingness. The future of Afghanistan needs to be up to the Afghan people. As President Biden said, responding to critics of the Afghanistan withdrawal, “The current security situation only confirms that just one more year fighting in Afghanistan is not a solution, but a recipe for being there indefinitely.”