Commentary: The fundamental miscalculation in Afghanistan

I’m by no means a foreign policy or military expert, but I’ve watched the anger and partisan wrangling over what went wrong in Afghanistan and I believe one key element has been mostly overlooked.

I believe the Biden administration and the U.S. military have performed admirably in the crisis and difficult circumstances that ensued after Kabul collapsed and tens of thousands of U.S. citizens and Afghan allies had to be evacuated.

But I think a lot more analysis and investigation needs to be conducted into the key miscalculation that led to the chaos and ultimately the deaths of 13 U.S. military personnel.

When Biden announced the deadline for withdrawal, the end of a long and unpopular war, he expected to be able to stand before the American people on Sept. 11, 2021, the 20-year anniversary of 9/11, and say, with pride and a smile on his face, that the war was over.

He assumed – with the advice of his generals and national security operatives — that after the U.S. military left, the Afghan military would hold the country, and especially Kabul, for at least weeks, months and possibly years. There would be plenty of time, even after our military left, for American citizens to leave. And if it appeared the Taliban was making progress, there would still be time to evacuate our Afghan allies.

The entire Biden administration plan, obviously recommended and endorsed by his national security apparatus, depended on the Afghan government staying in power for some extended period of time.

Instead, as we all saw, the government and military totally collapsed in just a few days. The entire chaotic mess, with crowds mobbing the airport, the insertion of thousands of additional troops, the terrorist bombing, and the abandonment of U.S. citizens and thousands of Afghan allies, resulted from that one monumental miscalculation.  

So that’s what needs to be investigated and answered. Biden’s plan would have worked just fine had the Taliban advance not been so lightning quick. Sure, things would have gotten messy if the Taliban eventually took Kabul. But by then our war would have been over for months, everyone who wanted to get out could have been evacuated. It would not have been the colossal disaster that just happened.

So how could we have miscalculated so badly? We worked and trained with the Afghan troops for 20 years. As Biden noted, we supplied them with the best equipment. They far outnumbered the Taliban fighters. Biden and his administration stated many times that the Afghans would hold, at least for a time.

So what happened? How did the intelligence fail so spectacularly?

Many commentators are outraged over what happened after the Taliban took control. It has been awful to watch. But everything that happened resulted from one of the biggest military miscalculations in many decades. We need to understand how it happened and who’s responsible.