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Editorial: Common ground with Cline on Afghanistan

APTOPIX Afghanistan (copy)

Taliban fighters celebrate one year since they seized the Afghan capital, Kabul, in front of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Aug. 15, 2022. The Taliban marked the first-year anniversary of their takeover after the country's western-backed government fled and the Afghan military crumbled in the face of the insurgents' advance. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

On the first anniversary of the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, Rep. Ben Cline, R-Botetourt, who represents Roanoke in Congress, posted the following on Twitter: “Biden’s botched giveaway of Afghanistan & the fall of Kabul looks no better today than it did one year ago. Billions of dollars in equipment just gifted to the Taliban, yet no one was held accountable. The country was given away despite Biden’s Generals arguing otherwise. Worse still, 13 American servicemembers were killed & Americans were abandoned to fight for themselves. This could’ve been avoided. Biden’s feckless foreign policy created this debacle & signaled weakness to adversaries like Putin who saw a green light to invade Ukraine.”

We don’t often agree with Cline’s views on national and international issues in this space, but on this topic we’re on more or less the same page.

Getting our troops out of Afghanistan was a necessary, long-overdue step, and it’s dead-on accurate to point out that the deal that Donald Trump’s administration made to hand over the country to the Taliban was a bad one.

It’s also accurate to point out that Joe Biden’s administration had time to come up with a better plan and did not.

We would add to Cline’s list the Afghan men and women who were U.S. allies during our 20-year occupation who were left behind to fall prey to the retributions of the Taliban government. Again, there was time to work out how those people could be helped.

Cline’s assertion that Russian President Vladimir Putin saw the disastrous Afghanistan withdrawal as a green light to invade Ukraine has become a common conservative pundit talking point. Yet that mantra is not limited to the right-wing media bubble.

Carl Bildt, former prime minister of Sweden and co-chair of the European Council on Foreign Relations, poses the question “Did the Afghan failure lead to the Ukraine war?“ in an essay for the international Project Syndicate. The fall of Kabul “demonstrated that the U.S. might not have the staying power or the strategic patience that is necessary to achieve a military victory or ensure a lasting peace in countries where it has intervened,” Bildt wrote. “The Kremlin certainly took note.”

Bildt also noted that under the control of the Taliban — and cut off from most international aid by economic sanctions against the Taliban and freezing of monetary assets — Afghanistan has overtaken Yemen as the site of the worst humanitarian crisis on the planet.

The least Biden’s administration could do is hold their noses with regard to the Taliban, urge the unfreezing of Afghanistan’s monetary assets, take a leadership role in international relief efforts, and deliver help where its needed.

We must give shelter and support to the relatively few Afghan refugees who succeeded in reaching U.S. soil and listen to what they tell us about the turmoil that continues in their homeland. As Cline himself put it last year in an October newsletter, “we must help those who helped us in Afghanistan.”

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