The Ripon Forum

Volume 55, No. 4

September 2021

We Cannot Create a Safe Haven For Terrorists

By on September 8, 2021

By leaving Afghanistan, we are doing just that

by JIM INHOFE

Over the recent days and weeks, it has become painfully clear that President Biden’s decision to hastily withdraw from Afghanistan is a disaster and has made America more vulnerable than even before September 11, 2001.

We all warned that a total troop withdrawal in Afghanistan that ignored conditions on the ground was going to be a disaster, and it has been — an utter and humiliating debacle that has cause irrevocable harm to both our security and the welfare of Afghan women and children. It’s even worse because President Biden had another option that he ignored: a small footprint in strategic locations to fight terrorists and protect America. Now, under President Biden’s failed leadership, we have abandoned our allies and our partners and put this nation at risk.

President Biden’s decision allows, and even accelerates, Afghanistan returning to the conditions that permitted the 9/11 terrorist attack to happen in the first place. Because of him, Afghanistan will, once again, become a petri dish for international terrorists. Leading up to 9/11, the Taliban harbored, aided, and abetted Al Qaeda, and that’s what they’ve continued doing for the last 20 years. There is no reason to believe they will behave differently now. Either the Taliban is fully in charge and actively enables terrorists who want to attack America and the West, or the Taliban is not fully in control and terrorists take advantage of the security vacuum. Either way, international terrorists have a much freer hand, and we have no counterterrorism partner to work with on the ground.

President Biden’s decision allows, and even accelerates, Afghanistan returning to the conditions that permitted the 9/11 terrorist attack to happen in the first place.

It is a shameful abandonment of not only a critical military mission, but also our partners and allies. The only beneficiaries of American weakness are our adversaries.

I’ve seen comparisons of this moment to what happened in Saigon nearly 50 years ago. This is worse. The Saigon image is a symbol of U.S. retreat and abandonment of its responsibility. The Kabul image is all of that and more. The U.S. exit from Kabul is enabling the return of the very terrorists who sheltered the 9/11 attackers. The image of U.S. planes abandoning Afghan civilians is now a symbol of American weakness, around which every Islamist terrorist group on the planet will rally. Saigon was a victory for global communism, but it didn’t become a destination for communists. The same cannot be said for Afghanistan, which will once again become both a major safe haven for jihadis and their rallying cry of success.

It is unclear to me why the Biden Administration chose this path in Afghanistan. There were other options, and we already learned this lesson the hard way in 2011 when we left Iraq and allowed ISIS to flourish. What’s more, our strategy of a small economy of force effort on the ground works: examples of successful continued presence persist in Syria, Kosovo, and the Sinai.

There were other options, and we already learned this lesson the hard way in 2011 when we left Iraq and allowed ISIS to flourish.

I imagine the White House saw the political polling on Afghanistan and sold it as a way to try to portray that they succeeded where former President Trump could not. But President Trump was smart; he listened to his advisors and kept a small but effective footprint in Afghanistan to conduct counter-terrorism missions and bolster the confidence of our Afghan partners. He read the same polls, but prioritized national security over political expediency.

Now, America’s security, America’s reputation, and our Afghan partners have been weakened. The responsibility for this strategic disaster, and this humanitarian crisis, is squarely on President Biden. This is bigger than just a Saigon moment; this is the moment his failure to lead condemned Afghan women and children back to the Stone Age. This is the moment he put America’s security at risk because of political optics.

What is happening in Afghanistan now was foreseeable and preventable. As I wrote in June, the President could have left a small contingent of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. This would have given our Afghan partners what they needed to prevent the Taliban from taking over. Yes, Afghanistan would have been far from perfectly stable. But Al Qaeda operatives would still be in prison, billions of dollars of U.S. equipment would not be in Taliban hands, thousands of American citizens and Afghan allies would not be fleeing for their lives, and Afghan girls would not be forced to wonder whether their education was about to end forever. I could go on, but I don’t have to. Sadly, the history books will

Jim Inhofe represents the state of Oklahoma in the U.S. Senate, where he serves as Chairman of the Armed Services Committee.

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