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Straight Talk on Afghanistan

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22.09.2021

Afghanistan seems like a million years ago, I know — it’s been about three weeks. But this is a very important subject, and it will likely continue to dog us. I have done a podcast with John Bolton on this subject: Afghanistan. As you know, he has had long, varied experience in the national-security field: in the State Department; at the United Nations; and in the White House, as national-security adviser.

For our podcast, our Q&A, go here.

We begin at the beginning: Why did we go into Afghanistan in the first place? Because of 9/11. Al-Qaeda killed some 3,000 of us that day. And, on September 12, we gave the Taliban an ultimatum — an “old-fashioned, 19th-century ultimatum,” as Bolton says: Hand over Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, or we will come after you. The Taliban opted for the latter.

We quickly achieved a “partial victory,” as Bolton says: We removed the Taliban from power and sent them into exile; we also chased much of al-Qaeda from Afghanistan. But we didn’t get bin Laden or other top officials.

In any event, 9/11 was an attack on America that had to be answered. All of us were worried that there were more attacks to come. Terrorists promised them. This is something that older people forget and that younger people have maybe never known.

A question: Could we have simply gone in and knocked over the Taliban and left? Or would that have been irresponsible? It would have been irresponsible, says Bolton. Remember, this was a war on terror — Islamist terror. This was never going to be a war between states — or merely a war between states — but something more amorphous, unfortunately.

Sundry terrorists were plotting against us. In the caves of Afghanistan, Bolton says, we discovered that “al-Qaeda had longed to acquire weapons of mass destruction: chemical and biological weapons, even nuclear weapons. In the months after 9/11, we worried about an anthrax attack. We worried about other biological and chemical attacks.”

And “to this day,” says Bolton, “I don’t think there are terrorists who have given up the possibility........

© National Review


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