The rapid fall of Kabul tore a hole in my heart. It’s taken me days to get my mind around what we’re witnessing and garner some focus to write this. First and foremost, I’m not surprised at the speed with which this happened. Why everyone in our defense establishment is surprised, is what baffles me. I’ve been asked many times over the last few days, “What went wrong?” or “How could we have miscalculated so badly?” and my answer is, we didn’t. Look at the assessments before this debacle and the answer from every intelligence product is clear: The Taliban would own the country. The only question was the timeline.
Hell, we forgot our own history in Afghanistan. I was one of the first soldiers to set foot on Afghanistan soil, and the Taliban fell apart so quickly even we were surprised. Why were we surprised when it went the other way? Did we think we were so superior that the Taliban caved to our inevitable end state, or should we have known that the Afghan society writ large would inevitably default to the pragmatic – wanting to be on the winning side? There is an obscure book written about the Vietnam war called The Rational Peasant, and that is what happened in Afghanistan. The minute we announced we were leaving, the rational peasant picked a side. It’s not hard to see which side. Were they going to pick the Americans who were leaving? Or the Taliban who were staying? So, we knew that Afghanistan was lost, we just didn’t know how quickly the clock would run.
Which brings us to today. The current administration is hell bent on not getting in a shooting war with the Taliban because by God we’re leaving that country and any gunfight will drag us back into the “forever war”. So, we’re doing nothing for the enormous number of American citizens, green card holders, and courageous Afghans who helped us during two decades of war. I heard the US Secretary of Defense, Gen. Lloyd Austin, tell a news reporter that he didn’t have the ability to go into the city of Kabul and rescue Americans, and my jaw hit the floor. The United States military has no ability to rescue American citizens in Kabul? Seriously? I know for a fact that’s absolute bullshit because I personally know the general in charge of security at Kabul’s airfield. He’s the commander of the 82nd Airborne, and if you give him the word, his boys are on the street in ten minutes.
I understand the reticence of our political leadership, but we should take our Afghan blinders off and treat this like any other NEO on the planet – which is to say, “We’re Americans, and if you want a fight, we’ll give it to you. But I’m getting these people out. Now.”
A NEO – the acronym for a Noncombatant Evacuation Operation – is a highly orchestrated event for evacuating United States’ citizens out of harm’s way when a country falls apart. It is the final result of the United States pulling down our flag and leaving an embassy. Because of this, it’s a very volatile action to trigger. In so doing, the United States is saying, “We give up. Time to go.” In the land of lawyer speak, it’s when the lead Federal Agency moves from the State Department to the Department of Defense, meaning the State Department has failed in diplomacy, and now it’s the knuckle-draggers turn.
We have entered that land in Afghanistan, and yet our ‘leadership’ is acting like we have to ask for Taliban support in order to facilitate safe passage to the Kabul airport for United States’ citizens for exfiltration. This is absolutely crazy. For some reason, we’ve let our past involvement in Afghanistan cloud our future options. And by that, I mean our near-term plan.
I’ve been involved in exactly one NEO in my military career – Operation Bevel Edge, when Cambodia went to hell in the late-90s. We deployed from Okinawa to Thailand and prepared to evacuate every AMCIT (American Citizen) in the place. We didn’t actually do the operation, because things settled down, but as an operations officer for the Special Forces battalion dedicated to executing the mission, I had to drink from a firehose on everything from how to vette people attempting to leave, to the rules of engagement with hostile elements – and if there was one thing I learned, it was this: AMCITS take priority. If there is a threat, eliminate it. Rescue the AMCITS…period.
And that’s where we stand in Kabul right now. Actually, it’s where we stand with the entire country. We should not be asking the Taliban for clear passage to the airport and then telling AMCITS in Kabul to make their own way. We should be executing a forcible entry into the city and evacuating every last AMCIT. The message should be clear: We aren’t hostile to you, unless you’re hostile to us, but we’re establishing corridors of evacuation, and if you attempt to stop us, you will die. And then back up that threat with firepower.
There’s actually a modern-day precedent for this, where we dealt with another faction that lived by the gun, and that was the release of Michael Durant after he was captured in Mogadishu during the so-called “Blackhawk Down” firefight. We were leaving that country much like we’re leaving Afghanistan, but Durant was held by the warlord Mohammed Aidid. Retired ambassador Robert Oakley was charged with getting his release. He arrived in Somalia, and was met by Aided thinking he held the keys to the kingdom of taunting the Great Satan. Oakley told him Durant was actually the key to his own destruction. In no uncertain terms, after President Clinton had already said we were leaving Somalia and giving him victory, he told Aided that the United States wanted Durant back, and they would lay waste to everything Aided held dear to accomplish this. Aided understood the threat. Durant was released as a “goodwill gesture” shortly thereafter.
The Taliban won so easily they’re not even sure what they own, and make NO mistake, now that they’ve won, they do not want to pick a fight with the United States. Out of the entire universe of hostile actors, we are the only one that can reverse their victory, and they know that. Why we’re sitting on our hands here is beyond me. In Bevel Edge, the plan was to establish collection points throughout Cambodia by force, basically telling the warring sides, “Hey, you guys want to duke it out, have at it, but if you screw with me, I will annihilate you.” There should be no argument that we should be doing the same thing here, but we’re not because of our inherent involvement in Afghanistan. I’m not even sure who has primacy of the mission right now. Is it the State Department in its makeshift embassy at the airport, or is it the Department of Defense in its makeshift TOC at the airport? Do they even know?
The fourth act of the Shakespearian drama of Afghanistan is playing out right now, and we’re apparently taking into account the first three, hobbling our effort based on a mistaken belief that any action will draw us back into the “forever war”. Which is just devoid of logic. We have an obvious mission, plain and simple. We can’t alter the outcome of this disaster, but we also shouldn’t fall prey to it. This should be treated like any other NEO we would execute. If country X fell apart, and United States’ citizens were in danger, we would execute Operation Bevel Edge, which is to say, we’d descend with overwhelming force and tell all fighting sides to back off until we leave. We could do the same here, only ten times more due to our military footprint and inherent knowledge of the terrain. We need to immediately impose overwhelming force and evacuate both American and Afghan civilians who helped us.
In the end, this is a matter of political will as opposed to military capability. It’s not that hard to do, because if there’s one thing that the Taliban understands, it’s Mao Ze Dung’s words: Diplomacy comes from the barrel of a gun.
thank you for putting my thoughts into words
Couldn’t agree more, Brad. We should have had a NEO go into effect from the get-go. I can’t believe we didn’t have a contingency plan for that. Or we probably did, but for some reason were reluctant to trigger it. I don’t get it. — retired AF officer
My wife asked me “why are you so pissed, you weren’t in Afghanistan?” No but I was in Beirut and the first gulf war. Any and all veterans that has ever been put in harms way should be pissed. Once again our “leaders” look like the keystone cops. It’s embarrassing. I’m almost 60 and I’m pissed. I feel for everyone that served over there. It’s inexcusable.
Thank you very, very much for stating what I believe most Americans are thinking. Get our Americans and Afghan partners who helped and assisted us, out safely. And do it immediately in whatever fashion it takes.
This is a time when American might should be displayed, if necessary, to the fullest extent.
God Bless our Military Men and Women who have sacrificed so much and continue to do so. Thank you all so very much!!!
Mr. Taylor, thank you again for your service and for being a voice for us all!!!
With Respect and appreciation,
Thank you for your experienced insight! I am bitterly disappointed the political mind of our President can’t see the option you describe as the Primary and Final act of our government. Too damn bad for our fellow citizens and loyal allies.
My heart breakers every time I read about our dismal disappointing efforts to evacuate Afghanistan. Your words today expressed a true view of the situation and how the US military has the ability to resolve it should the diplomats and politicians agree to allow it. Who knows maybe by tomorrow they will make some effective decisions. In my opinion, as a Viet Nan era Naval officer, the only reason Saigon did not look as bad as Kabul is because of highly limited press coverage.
Having been in Afghanistan on several occasions, I am in total agreement with your commentary. this is a total fu!
always appreciate your insight
Thank you, Brad.
Maybe our current administration will act accordingly.
Thank you for your thoughts and “shooting from the hip. You should consider running for office against these Keystone Cops we have now who belong in a kitchen!
I think that if we ever get into another WOT conflict, God forbid, that it would be difficult to recruit native assets. We have sentence the people that helped us with translations and intel to death once the fanatics find them. Shameful behavior on our part and I believe it will hurt or efforts in the future.
I think that if we ever get into another WOT conflict, God forbid, that it would be difficult to recruit native assets. We have sentence the people that helped us with translations and intel to death once the fanatics find them. Shameful behavior on our part and I believe it will hurt our efforts in the future.
Brad, seems to me we were never in to win it. We could have cut off supply lines to the Taliban a long time ago. Have to believe that is all coming from Pakistan but would like to hear your perspective on that. You can’t continue to fight without supplies, ammo, etc. Where was that coming from? Now that the BiDumb administration is demonstrating weakness, what will happen when China invades Taiwan? I, like you, and all Patriots are disgusted with the weak leadership that will only embolden our adversaries and China. Thanks for great perspective as always!
Best – Brian Burton
I 100% agree with you, Brad. I sent this to my daughter & her husband, a Cambridge educated Brit. They live in Atlanta. Below is his comment to me:
“When we were worried about Biden, we knew he was senile and impaired, and in hock to the woke left, we knew it would be bad, Not, however, this bad. Eight months in.
This is what you get with a regime of spoilt children, obsessed with micro-aggressions and pronouns. When they have a real, adult crisis, the cupboard is bare.”
Current regime that was elected by China is there to please China. They are also transitioning to bring in Harris. If one cannot see it, I do not know how much more you all need. This is a corrupt, illegitimate regime that is preparing to destroy this country. They are almost there!
Brad, please submit this for publication in the Wall Street Journal. The NYT & WaPo would never print this, unfortunately.
Bravo Brad. No one has written or said this better. I am forwarding this to all of my friends so that they can better understand what I have been feeling. Thank you for your service and thank you for sharing!
Thank you for writing this, Brad.. I have been waiting and hoping to hear your valued perspective. I can imagine how disturbing and frustrating this past week has been for you. Thank you for your service and your valuable voice.
As always, thank you Brad for your voice.
I’ve been impatiently waiting to hear your message.
Thank you for your service.
We have the capability and capacity within the US military to ensure all non-combatants get evacuated. It’s time to leverage that power.
As a big proponent of growing/sustaining allies and partners in the growing global competition, this situation pains me. The strategic message is clear, the US will try and get citizens and partners to safety, but only in a limited fashion that suits the current political environment. If I’m living in Southeast Asia, I’d be taking notes for future conflicts.
That being said, it would be disingenuous to say that failing to secure the safety of alliance partners is a first time occurrence for the US. In a similar fashion, after our massive success in Desert Storm, we left the Kurds to the slaughter under Saddam Hussein.
This too will fade, the question is how long the memory will linger with our global partners we are seeking to influence.
I could not have said it better myself. For this Administration to say, “We don’t have the ability to gather our Citizens” .
Bull Shit. We tell them Rag Heads, we are coming for our People, in Peace, but will Fight of we have to.
Another great book, Fire in the Lake (I Ching hexagram 49), about how it was part of Vietnamese culture to seek which way the prevailing winds are blowing and to go with them rather than oppose them. The abiding Western way of opposing the prevailing winds is likely an isolated anomaly of Greco-Roman lineage.
Your words are what I have been shouting at the TV news ever since this debacle started! I echo the thoughts of most of the commenters above. I believe
Donald Trump was an unmitigated disaster for us and the rest of the world. Now it is the other side’s chance to screw up big time. At least it is not because of the current President’s greed and selfishness. It is because of timidity and desire to get us out of Afghanistan on an historic anniversary – that never works.
Please do not disclose my name or email address; I do not want to have to deal with the wackos on both sides of the political fence.
Agree totally about “the rational peasant”. Middle East has always been tribal and Western thinking just doesn’t get it.
Hope the military has had enough of looking like the left hand doesn’t know what the right is doing and will draw
the line the sand.
Thank you Brad, you said that same things my wife I have been talking about the last week since this has come about!! Should have keep the Taliban out of Kabul until we had all Americans and Afghanistan’s that supported us out before allowing them not enter the city/ airport area. Poor planning by the Administration!!
God bless you brother. Oorah!
Brad… you are spot on. The NEO was one fo the main things we trained for when we were both in the 7th. This is a total failure in leadership today and creates an even greater challenge tomorrow.
Spot on! I salute your candid (and accurate) words, and would suit up again to take care of our troops if allowed. Two tours in Vietnam taught me that we never leave troops in harm’s way, period. The Biden “leadership” is anything but, and the VP would be worse. God help us through this administration.
Thank you Brad. I fell the same way I just didn’t know how to put it into words. My heart is broken for all the men and women who sacrificed there lives and bodies to bring a form of democracy Afghanistan 🇦🇫. Only to have it collapse so quickly. I want you to know how grateful I am for all you and your family did
Thank you Brad for your insight into the debacle happening in Afghanistan. i read recently British and French Special Forces units were “rescuing” trapped American citizens and getting them to the airport. I can only image how Russian, China, and Iran will now change its thinking with regard to “American Resolve”.
As a former military man myself, I could not be more outraged about how this “effort” is going. However after saying that, and witnessing the fall of Saigon,
it has occurred to me that we never LEARN. Regardless of the party in power, we are a total mess when faced with true realities of life and death. Poor planning!
Send in the 82nd, or 101st and stop playing around! Get them out. AmCits first, then friendlies… Leave the fucking politics to politicians.
No one seems to remember it wasn’t Biden, but Trump who called the Taliban to the negotiating table in Doha!
People are not forgetting that I don’t think. They are upset about how the current administration handled the situation.