ITHACA, N.Y. -- Over the past few days, the Taliban have continued to seize control of Afghanistan. Afghan civilians fear a return to the terrorist group’s rule and tens of thousands of people are looking to flee the country.
Sarah Kreps is a professor of government and international relations at Cornell University. Her research focuses on the intersection of international politics, technology, and national security. Kreps says the U.S. should have engaged in a more measured withdrawal after the recent surge of fighting.
“The decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan after nearly 20 years made good strategic sense. The U.S. had long overstayed its welcome and usefulness and an open-ended commitment would have been necessary to prop up the Afghan government and military.
“How the U.S. handled the withdrawal, however, is inexcusable. Further, the U.S. should have engaged in a more measured drawdown timed after the summer surge of fighting – a predictable seasonable pattern – had given way to winter dormancy. At the least, removing military forces before civilians have been evacuated is a recipe for disaster.
“The U.S. entirely owns what was a predictable debacle. If the chaotic withdrawal is any indication, the U.S. may not have thought clearly about the implications of a post-U.S. Afghanistan and needs to consider a possible role in securing the Kabul airport and evacuating Afghan civilians who have cooperated with U.S. forces and are especially vulnerable to the Taliban.”
Barry Strauss, the Bryce and Edith M. Bowmar Professor in Humanistic Studies at Cornell University and Corliss Page Dean Fellow at the Hoover Institution, is an expert in military strategy. Strauss says the United States could have pulled out slowly, in phases.
“The war in Afghanistan ceased making strategic sense long ago. The mismanagement of American withdrawal has only made things worse. We could have pulled out slowly, in phases, and with careful attention to bringing our allies to safety. Or we could have left the small force of 3,500 troops there, with American airpower to back them up. Instead, we have followed the path of chaos and humiliation. It’s a terrible lesson for the world of the meaning of the pax Americana.”
Keith Weller Taylor is a professor of Sino-Vietnamese Cultural Studies at Cornell University.Taylor says the American people will lose patience with a war policy that is not designed to succeed.
"The events in Afghanistan remind us that the United States cannot fight wars of attrition and has become accustomed to abandoning allies. Unlike authoritarian regimes that can discipline a population to endure years of warfare, the United States has regular elections, changes of government, and, consequently, changes of national policy, and the American people will lose patience with a war policy that is not designed to succeed.
"As in Vietnam, the United States went to war without a plausible strategy to achieve its aims, fell into stalemate and attrition. The U.S. Army and the American people are not capable of sustaining a war of attrition. With Afghanistan as with Vietnam, in desperation to disengage, the US negotiated with the enemy over the head of its ally, and walks away from the war because it can. The all volunteer army, a legacy of the Vietnam War, has allowed the U.S. government to prolong the war, but without a consistent, fully-developed strategy for “victory” the only possible result is the erosion of public support and eventually the election of a government that no longer believes the commitment is in the national interest."