The Afghan people, like most people, just want to live in peace. They just want to go about their lives, see their family grow up, and be comforted by the creature comforts of their society. Unfortunately, they have always been ruled by a despotic tribal system of warlords and Sharia Law which have made this impossible.
Our "invasion" offered them a fresh start, we just took it away.
Lets start by looking at what we could have done differently when we went in.
Upon entering the country, we announced to the world that we were there to conduct our operations and then to get out. We announced our departure before the mission really even started and so our enemies knew that all they had to do was hang on long enough that we would get tired of this and pull out. They did it to the British, they did it to the Russians, and now they have done it to us.
You would have thought we would have learned that from a history book, but maybe not.
We should have plopped a big fat Air Force Base right smack dab in the middle of the country and said that we are not going anywhere until the country is strong and successful. That we would support their government and that we were here to stay.
Only this stability could have brought about a truly positive outcome.
Once we decided to stay a bit longer than just "accomplishing the mission," we once again failed to make a declaration that we were here to stay. Instead we just moved the goalpost and said that we would leave later than we thought. Nothing changed, however, as the Taliban leader just had to sit in a comfortable exile a bit longer.
Again, none of the warlords were going to risk siding with us. They all knew it was only temporary. They likely sent their own soldiers into the Afghan army to learn to use our American equipment and to be trained on it because they knew that this day would come. So what if that fighter killed a few of their own, the long game was worth it.
Remember Americans struggle to think in decades, Middle Easterners tend to think in centuries, and Asian countries tend to think in millennia.
The individual does not matter, the collective does.
Eventually we announced that we were pulling out. I can only imagine the pure rapture that must have played upon the faces of the Taliban's leadership. They had won their war, even if by killing Bin Laden we had won ours. All they had to do was wait a bit more and then the country would be theirs.
Yet even after announcing the withdrawal, we managed to bungle it up about as badly as possible.
Instead of being smart about it and using the time that the Taliban gave us when they started moving to evacuate our embassy, destroy our equipment, evacuate civilians who helped us, transport refugees, and then to bomb all military equipment, facilities, and enemy targets on our way out, we sat on our thumbs and did nothing while they took the country and hoped that they would play nice when they got to Kabul.
It was both a pipe dream and an unmitigated disaster.
In the end we had helicopters evacuating people who were destroying things in the embassy because it was not already done.
We had people rushing to the airport to try to get crammed onto planes leaving while the Taliban was close enough to take shots at them with small arms.
We had people falling off of planes and being found crushed in the wheel wells of the planes because they could not wait any longer in hopes of avoiding the Taliban.
They knew they were being abandoned and they wanted out.
Yet it was all avoidable. If someone would have just made the hard call two weeks earlier all of this could have been avoided.
Just like it could have been avoided if we had gone in properly in the beginning.
I know a number of military commanders, some retired, some not, and not ONE of them has said that they would have conducted the pull out the way we did. We knew the enemy was coming, we had plenty of time, and we squandered and mismanaged that time so badly that we ended up in the situation that we are.
Weak leadership and an inability to make the hard call.
It has all been wrong, every strategy we used was wrong, but the ending was like a 4th of July fireworks show of incompetence that made the previous 20 years look MacArthurian by comparison.
I know that there have to be people in the Pentagon who are angry, frustrated, and disillusioned right now. I know this is not the plan they put in front of POTUS, they would have been summarily fired for it.
This is a plan of Biden's own making by not making a plan.
And everyone suffered needlessly.
If only we had a CEO to make those tough calls...