Like many, I have watched recent events in Afghanistan with increasing despair.
Anyone with more than a passing interest in history knew the day would come when the West would pack its bags and leave.
Invading Afghanistan is straightforward. Overwhelming firepower will do it. However, that advantage counts for nothing when it comes to holding Afghanistan. The enemy seeps away, invisible and dispersed in remote terrain. There it waits for the will of the invader to wither and die. Multiple empires have floundered and failed to consolidate initial victories in Afghanistan.
What is mystifying, is the manner of the withdrawal. It was signalled by the Trump administration in a case study on how not to do a deal.
In most things, the Biden administration has followed a simple rule, do the opposite to the previous guy - but here, it agreed. Time to go.
Why? Presumably, the US felt its work was done and the country, now with a functioning government, and equipped military, should get on with forging its own destiny. Plus, keeping a force in country is an expensive undertaking.
I can only imagine that when EVERYBODY on the ground said - "Umm...actually, the government is far from functioning and the military is far from a coherent force", the government simply closed its ears.
Once it became apparent that the coalition was withdrawing entirely, the government and resistance crumbled. In days.
Still - at least a planned withdrawal would bring an end to losses.
Actually - things had been quiet. Combat deaths were almost nil across the coalition over the last 5 years. Troop numbers were greatly reduced. Stability was probably a result of the apparent commitment of NATO to support the government.
There was no plan.
I'm no military planner, but if faced with a need to evacuate by air, I think I would have held onto my military airfield. I wouldn't have given the Taliban a list of the people who had worked with me, and who I would, at some unspecified point in the future, allow to come live in my country. I think it may have occurred to me that this was effectively a kill list.
The Taliban is now the best equipped hostile military force in the world. The US, UK and its allies gave the Afghan military state of the art weapons, and were still training them a few months ago. Those arms and that expertise are in the hands of the Taliban. Yep. We've armed and trained the enemy. And kitted them out with Oakley's too.
Famously, that's what we did with a fellow called Usama Bin Laden. He gave the Russians a bloody nose for us, but then turned, orchestrating the attacks of 9/11/2001. Our response? Invade Afghanistan.
Surely somebody in the White House has some memory of 2001 and its aftermath? Someone. Anyone?
If you have a moment, watch and listen to this man, Tom Tugendhat, talk of the consequences of this withdrawal.
I'm in awe of those prepared to give their lives in service of their country. Politicians should consider very carefully how that courage and dedication is spent.