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The Stain of 2021
People gather around a Taliban flag as they wait for relatives released from jail in Afghanistan following an 'amnesty' by the Taliban, near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border crossing point in Chaman on August 17, 2021 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

The Stain of 2021

H.R. McMaster

We heard that it was past time to “end the endless wars.” But wars do not end when one party disengages and the enemy is waging an endless jihad.

We heard that we had accomplished nothing in Afghanistan. But then we watched as the Afghan people, especially women, overnight lost the freedoms they secured over two decades with the support of the United States and our partners.

We heard that the Taliban had changed, that it would share power, that it would be more benign this time. Then we we watched as the Taliban forced “marriages” with 15-year-old girls as cover for rape and gunned down civil servants in public squares.

We heard that the Taliban was distinct from and different from Al Qaeda. But anyone with eyes could see that those groups are intertwined and the reestablishment of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is as much a victory for Al Qaeda and other jihadists as it is for the Taliban.

We heard politicians enjoin “the international community” to express disappointment in the Taliban’s behavior. But the idea that these enemies of humanity are concerned about chiding tweets or disapproving speeches in American and European capitals is ludicrous.

We hear that Afghan forces should have fought harder, that they rolled over, that they lacked will. But tens of thousands of Afghans made the ultimate sacrifice and the psychological blow delivered through America’s sudden retreat fell harder than even the physical blows that the Taliban delivered.

We heard, again and again, that there was no military solution to the war in Afghanistan. But the Taliban clearly had one in mind.

We hear that the consequences of this lost war can be managed. But self-defeat based in incompetence and lack of will should be cause for grave concern.

There is much more suffering and violence ahead. It will be years before the stain of 2021 can be effaced.

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