Jim Beam column: Afghan war doesn’t end well

Published 11:05 am Thursday, August 19, 2021

“My fellow Americans. Let me begin by apologizing for my administration’s failure to establish a safe and orderly evacuation of your fellow citizens and our Afghan allies Monday from the Kabul airport in Afghanistan. The turmoil and loss of life is unacceptable.”

I believe many who tuned in to hear President Joe Biden address the events in Kabul expected him to say something along those lines. Most Americans have accepted the fact it was time to end the 20 years of war in Afghanistan.

Biden, instead, spent most of his time insisting ending the war was the right decision. The Associated Press reported that Biden didn’t admit any U.S. fault in how the drawdown of forces was executed. He did say that he was “deeply saddened by the facts we now face, but I do not regret my decision.”

Didn’t those in charge of the evacuation of Americans and our Afghan allies realize there might be a stampede for freedom at the Kabul airport? It had happened in Vietnam.

The fact that some Afghans held onto a military jet as it took off and plunged to their deaths was a horrific sight. Perhaps it was because they feared revenge attacks by the Taliban against those who worked with the Americans or the Afghan government.

What is it about American political leaders that makes it so difficult for them to admit their mistakes? Biden became the latest when he refused to accept responsibility for the chaos that ended this country’s 20-year war in Afghanistan.

I have been around long enough to see a number of presidents refuse to accept responsibility for their actions. Two of them involve the unsuccessful U.S. engagements in Vietnam and Afghanistan.

President John F. Kennedy, who launched the unsuccessful Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961, was an exception. After it failed, he took the blame, rearranged his staff, and successfully handled the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The Advocate spoke with Afghanistan war veterans about Monday’s events.

Jared Nolen of Gonzales said, “It seems like such a repeat of the pullout from Vietnam. Everyone agrees it’s time to start bringing our soldiers home from Afghanistan, but not so abruptly and not well thought out.”

Nolen was stationed in Kandahar in 2002 as a staff sergeant with the National Guard Company C, 769th Engineer Battalion. He said he’s felt disbelief and frustration watching Afghanistan’s changing story unfold.”

“It gives us a total black eye in the world,” he said. “I think that’s the sentiment across the board, especially for the people that served in Afghanistan.”

Suzy McDaniel of Slidell is president and co-founder of the Louisiana nonprofit Support Our War Heroes. She was in a rehabilitation hospital recovering from shoulder surgery at the same time an Army soldier was there who had been severely injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq.

“I’m feeling for every parent who lost a child in Afghanistan,” McDaniel said. “It must be so upsetting for them. I personally felt it was time for us to leave. But I wish it could have been done in a better way.”

Massouma Tajik, 22, was a data analyst working in Afghanistan for a U.S. contractor. She had been put on an evacuation list heading to the United States or Mexico.

While at a friend’s house in Kabul, she was told Sunday she had only 10 minutes to leave for the airport. The AP said she waited hours at the airport for a flight she feared would never come.

“I am here, confused,  hungry and hopeless,” she said. “I don’t know what is coming my way. Where will I go? How will I spend my days? Who will support my family?

The plight of that young woman says so much about the failure of the Biden administration to properly plan the evacuation of many thousands of Afghans who worked with Americans, some for two decades.

The same thing happened in Saigon, Vietnam, when Americans left the capital, leaving behind many Vietnamese who had been working with them during that long war.

As many as 60,000 Afghans may qualify for relocation, and that doesn’t include their families. Will they get out of Afghanistan before the last American leaves the country?

We may never know how many make it. That is one of the most disturbing questions caused by the failure of the Biden administration to properly plan how to shut things down in Afghanistan.