What Did Afghanistan Mean? Hoover fellows H. R. McMaster and Victor Davis Hanson scrutinize the long and ultimately futile American campaign to remake Afghanistan.

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Author: Peter Robinson
Date: Wntr 2022
From: Hoover Digest(Issue 1)
Publisher: Hoover Digest
Document Type: Interview
Length: 3,447 words
Lexile Measure: 1170L

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Peter Robinson, Uncommon Knowledge: On Monday, August 30, a US military C-17 carried the last American troops out of Afghanistan, marking the formal end of what reporters called the longest war in US history. Analysis in a moment, but first: what did you think the moment you heard that this withdrawal was happening so quickly and in such disorder?

H. R. McMaster: I was not surprised at all. I mean, this is what happens when you surrender to a terrorist organization. And I think there are those in our government who believe there are no consequences for a lost war. What's astounding to me is this rationale that we had to leave on the timeline

that we gave to the Taliban, and in so doing, we could reduce risk to our servicemen and women. Of course, thirteen were killed in a mass attack that killed hundreds of Afghans just a few days before this. So, we reduce risk to servicemen and women, but we are leaving civilians, American citizens behind.

Robinson: Victor, Secretary of State Antony Blinken testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that "we"--that is, the Biden administration--"inherited a deadline" from the Trump administration, but not "a plan." Had President Biden not followed through on his predecessor's commitment, Blinken said, attacks on our forces "would have resumed."

Victor Davis Hanson: Well, that was a very self-incriminating statement. We inherited a plan, but we didn't inherit the conditions under which the prior plan said that there would be punitive actions if the conditions weren't met. More important, they inherited a lot of plans. They inherited a plan to

secure the border; it was secure. They inherited a plan to have three million more barrels of oil and gas. They inherited the plan, by the way, of about 2 percent annual inflation. So they were very promiscuous in getting, and then jettisoning, every plan they got. There hadn't been anybody killed in Afghanistan for one year when Biden was inaugurated, and he had plenty of time to make a graduated plan. If you wanted to withdraw over two or three years, he could have done it. But he didn't want to do that. He wanted to get out and have a big parade and say, "I, Joe Biden, the understudy and unfairly deprecated 'Joe from Scranton,' did what George Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump didn't do. I got out of Afghanistan, and I did it on September 11." That's what it was about.

Robinson: Here's a quotation from President Biden the day before the final American troops departed. "The idea that somehow there's a way to have gotten out without chaos ensuing . . . I don't know how that happens." As a purely military matter, was he correct?

McMaster: No, that's not true. Once he said that you can have only x number of troops on the ground and they have to leave on this particular schedule, then your options are quite limited. Yo u can't keep Bagram...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A694379039