America Was Still At The Mall When We Let Afghanistan Fall

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“A true Patriot will defend his country from its government”

-Thomas Jefferson


After 20 years of blood, sweat, and tears, America finally extricated itself from Afghanistan. In the 20 years since we charged forward, ostensibly pure in intent, to root out evildoers on their own turf, it has become clear that America lacks the fortitude to implement a comprehensive vision beyond a 2-year cycle. Instead, our convenient societal amnesia, leveraged by political ambition, has given rise to a blundering foreign policy that would see Team America adorn itself in the mantle of the global savior one minute, only to cast off that mantle the next. This schizophrenic foreign policy has damaged America’s credibility at home and abroad, imperiled countless lives, and hampered our stated ideological objectives of supporting global peace and democracy. It’s time to admit to our failures and get to work fixing a political apparatus that is clearly dysfunctional.

The ill-conceived and poorly executed withdrawal made a mockery of decades of foreign policy claiming Afghanistan as a strategic partner while extolling America’s alleged fortitude to support the struggling nation. In the blink of an eye, America turned her back not only on Afghanistan, its people, and its future but also on our own ideals. The shameful events of August 2021 highlighted just how far America has fallen from its once lofty stature as a beacon of prosperity and peace.

As the son of Pakistani immigrants, I found in America what could not be found elsewhere—hope and a chance to pursue it. Accordingly, I keenly felt the call to service in the wake of 9/11. While serving on the ground in Afghanistan, first as a civilian interpreter, and later as an infantry officer, I personally witnessed the struggles of the Afghan people. Following America’s ill-fated withdrawal last year, I again felt the call to serve; not as part of a political apparatus that had clearly lost its way, however, but a call to serve allies that our government had so heartlessly abandoned.

Together with many other veterans sharing the same sentiments, and in partnership with Daniel Elkins, founder of the Special Operations Association of America, we launched Digital Dunkirk and enabled Task Force Argo. Together, we helped to evacuate over 2,500 Afghans who had been abandoned by America’s cowardly politicians. Sadly, within a few short weeks, the public’s sentiments towards our failures in Afghanistan disappeared from societal discourse and political maneuvering, yet again, let the very architects of the tragedy itself off the hook.

Now, a year later, the convenient political narratives have been deployed once more to sound the call to war in Ukraine. The recipient of billions of dollars of American taxpayer largess, the Ukrainian military relies on foreign military aid in a manner eerily similar to the US proxy war in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation. Once again, America finds herself committing the resources of tomorrow to a fight today that most Americans care nothing about. Beyond the rush to hang Ukrainian flags on our houses and cry “Slava Ukraini” from behind the safety and comfort of our keyboards, we will soon be reminded, once again, of the careless burden heaped upon our soldiers, at the behest of an indecisive and ambitious political class. This is all implicitly sanctioned by millions of Americans who, preoccupied with the latest socially acceptable Twitter bylines, spend their hours carefully posturing themselves so as to ensure they are never called upon to actually sacrifice for any cause other than themselves. As the saying now goes, “while the military was at war, America was at the mall.”

America failed in Afghanistan. Worse than that, however, was our ignominious withdrawal which left thousands stranded in despair and was then sold to an unwitting public as another notch in America’s belt of democratic and moral virtue. In so doing, America continued its longstanding tradition of showcasing our inability to extol any honor or moral courage in defeat and instead proffer hollow platitudes that allow our self-serving bureaucrats to save face.

It is time for Americans to demand more; do more, and be more. For too long have we mortgaged our future in service of the indulgences of a resurgent oligarchy, wholly ignorant of the once pure virtue of civic service. Americans must accept the reality of the morass in which we find ourselves and take responsibility for reconnecting with what we have lost. To be fair, it was high time to acknowledge our folly of invading Afghanistan in the first place and bring our troops home; the manner in which we did so, however, was simply deplorable.

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