The Wages of Defeat in Afghanistan
The hasty and chaotic Western retreat from Afghanistan provides several lessons. If the United States and Europe fail to heed them, the cause of liberal democracy in the twenty-first century could could go the way of the country they just surrendered to the Taliban.
LONDON – The recent terrorist bombing at Kabul airport that killed more than 100 Afghan civilians and 13 US troops has added more horror to an awful summer. It also shows that Voltaire was not always correct. An enthusiastic gardener, he occasionally gave the impression one could forget about the world’s troubles by weeding a herbaceous border or strolling through an orchard. No such luck these days, alas, even on holiday in August.
When I am at my summer home in rural France, I look at the beautiful white-flowered rose – a Kiftsgate, native to western China – that envelops the entrance arch. I once saw an even more magnificent specimen. It covered the wall of the presidential palace in Kabul, which I visited in 2003 as a European Commissioner to help put in place the European Union’s development program in Afghanistan after the Western military intervention there to rout al-Qaeda.
Today, practically all we hear about Afghanistan is the grim news of the chaotic retreat from the country by the West, and particularly the United States. It has come as a great surprise to many that US President Joe Biden carried out Donald Trump’s strategy of quitting Afghanistan after 20 years, although Biden postponed the withdrawal of American troops by about three months.