Port: On our embarrassment in Afghanistan

“The likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely," he assured us a month ago.

President Joe Biden delivers his first address to a joint session of Congress in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington on April 28, 2021. Michael Reynolds / Pool via REUTERS
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MINOT, N.D. — We have been embarrassed in Afghanistan, and the consequences are dire.

Afghani women will be brutalized as their communities are taken over by religious fundamentalists. Thousands of Afghanis who helped the American invasion and occupation of Afghanistan have and will face vicious reprisal. China is already moving into the power vacuum left behind by the departure of American forces. The communists are embracing the Taliban as a part of their efforts to move their "belt and road" initiative into the country.

This is an unmitigated disaster, but it wasn't the Taliban or China or any other foreign adversary that defeated us.

It was ourselves.

The most frustrating aspect of the debate over Afghanistan is the refusal by so many to see it through any lens other than the original debate about invasion.



The "we shouldn't be there" crowd doesn't get to ignore the fact that we were there, and that precipitous withdrawal has dire consequences that are playing out as I type this.
We keep calling it the "war in Afghanistan" but the truth was it wasn't a war any more in any real sense.

We haven't lost an American soldier in Afghanistan in 2021, per .

We lost 11 in 2020, but of those, just four were in combat. The last combat death in Afghanistan happened more than a year ago, in February 2020.

I note those numbers not to minimize the cost of our invasion of Afghanistan — 3,577 dead, including 192 North Dakotans, plus trillions of American dollars — but to show that the war stopped being a war a while ago.

What we were doing in Afghanistan was occupation. Our forces supplied the Afghan government with a security and intelligence backbone. In exchange, we got to have an established military presence in a key region for Islamic extremism.

The critics of our nation-building efforts in that country can, rightly, note that after decades, after thousands of American deaths and trillions spent, the Afghani regime we were propping up collapsed in a matter of weeks. It's a depressing reality.

And yet, one that should not obfuscate the cost of leaving.


The cost of abandoning to violent religious despots those we set out to help.

In many ways, our failure in Afghanistan is a product of the failure of our politics. Our inability to compromise, our inability to set partisan recrimination aside, is what leads to foreign policy like what we see playing out in Kabul and Kandahar and Jalalabad.

We're not leaving Afghanistan because we have to. We're leaving because President Joe Biden feels like he owes it to his political base. “The likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely," he assured us a month ago.

That miscalculation will be paid for in blood by the Afghanis who supported us.

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Rob Port, founder of, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at .

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Rob Port


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Rob Port

Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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