US national security was hit with a double whammy on Thursday. Against the advice of practically his entire military counsel, including Secretary of Defense General Mattis and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, President Trump announced he is pulling half of US forces out of Afghanistan in the coming months, hours after declaring premature victory over ISIS and the rapid withdrawal of all American troops from Syria.
These are mistakes. They are so bad that General Mattis, widely considered Trump’s best cabinet Secretary, has resigned in protest.
The Taliban remains formidable and have only grown stronger in response to American dilly dallying. The 14,000 American military personnel currently in Afghanistan is a pittance. We have the greatest fighting force the world has ever seen, but so few cannot be expected to win a war. The half that remain after Trump’s pullout will barely be able to defend themselves, let alone take the fight to our terrorist enemies.
There are some who would ask why we should be there at all. Why send American blood and treasure to a distant land that seems so unimportant. We’ve been there for so long already, isn’t it time to give up and come home?
Let’s not forget why we are in Afghanistan. The Taliban provided safe haven to al Qaeda, the terrorist organization that killed thousands of Americans on 9/11. It was shortly after al Qaeda received the Taliban’s support in 1996 that Osama bin Laden declared war on America. Five years later, events that began in that otherwise unimportant country reshaped the world.
What would an emboldened Taliban do, one that could credibly say it defeated America and all of the West? Would they reverse course and merely terrorize their own people, or would they take their newly demonstrated strength and fame to spread their brand of destructive Islam around the world?
America was asleep at the wheel throughout the 1990’s, ignorant to the growing threat of radical Islamic terrorism. We woke up on September 11, 2001. Now, seemingly unwilling to make the sacrifices necessary to safeguard our lives and our way of life, we are allowing ourselves to be lulled back into complacency, secure in the dream it won’t happen again.
But it will. Tens of thousands of terrorists around the world remain dedicated to the cause of bringing America low. Our actions will embolden them and give them state support.
A rapid withdrawal from Syria will bring similar consequences.
The beneficiaries of this move include Russia, Iran, Hezbollah, and Assad, who will sweep into the power vacuum we leave behind, and ISIS, which gets a reprieve from effective US military action while it still has thousands of fighters to defend its remaining territory. The losers include our Syrian allies and the Kurds who have fought with us since 2003, as they will likely have to abandon the fight against ISIS to defend themselves from Assad, Iran, and Turkey now that they have lost American support. A stronger Iran, Assad, and Hezbollah also puts Israel into the loser column.
The consequences of a premature withdrawal is something Trump used to understand.
Now it is Trump who will leave the region in turmoil, and another president who will have to clean up his mess, just as he was saddled with ISIS due to Obama’s failures. The cycle repeats, making America the final loser.