Biden made the right call on Afghanistan

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Rep. Jason Crow (D-CO) shares the personal reason Biden's decision to withdraw from Afghanistan has impacted him.

Posted: Apr 16, 2021 3:10 AM
Updated: Apr 16, 2021 3:10 AM

President Biden has weighed the risks and considered the political and personal implications. He has listened carefully to the advice of the military and diplomats, and he has coordinated with our allies, who have nobly supported the fight over the last two decades with their own blood and treasure. Now, the President has made the tough decision to order the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan by September -- 20 years after the war there began.

Many of those who wear or have worn the uniform will be upset with the President's action, feeling betrayed because they were not allowed to "finish the job" in which they have invested so much. They will pour themselves a bourbon, and like so many soldiers in so many past wars, they will ask themselves: What was it all for? As a friend of mine stated: "So much was lost in that country. The war has rewritten my life. Dead friends at Arlington, divorces, years overseas. We gave it our all, but it wasn't enough."

Others who served in Afghanistan will say: It's about time! They know the original mission of defeating Al Qaeda was accomplished many years ago and that we cannot fix Afghanistan's dysfunctional government. They understand that much of our mission in the last few years has been aimless, without objective or strategic vision.

Another friend said it this way: "The biggest lesson we will learn from this war is how we didn't decide from the beginning how it should end, and we didn't get out after we had accomplished what we went in to do. We Americans are filled with hubris, and we have a big appetite. We always want more, and sometimes more ain't good."

Pundits and analysts are hotly debating the risks and rewards of withdrawing from Afghanistan from their national security and academic perspectives. And those who wear or have worn the uniform are also contemplating the President's decision, but from an entirely different viewpoint. For those who have served in Afghanistan, this is deeply personal.

Most of those who fought there will likely keep their thoughts to themselves or will only choose to share with fellow soldiers. They will think of the personal investment they made, and the haunting memories of comrades killed or injured.

While some will recite statistics, the toll of the dead and wounded or the money spent on America's longest war, those who went on patrol -- conducted hundreds of engagements with police chiefs or local tribal leaders, were ambushed or the target of snipers or rockets or IEDs, coordinated airstrikes or the kill/capture mission associated with defeating terrorists or insurgents -- will instead see faces, not numbers. They will have disturbing memories, because they have seen the human side of combat.

The thoughts of those who fought in Afghanistan will always be tainted by their own perceptions of either having made a huge difference ... or not having done enough. Some, especially senior officers, will always question what they did right and what they did wrong. They will lament that they were often asked to do too much without enough support from the government or the population, even though that wasn't completely their fault. I know, because I continue to question my actions as a senior leader, years after redeploying from combat. It is what we do.

The Prussian war theoretician Carl von Clausewitz suggested a "trinity" to understand the tensions that exist between government leaders, the people of the society and the military. To be successful, practitioners of war need to understand and influence the actions of the government, the people and the military. To win, the government must establish a viable strategy, the people must see the war as legitimate and provide support and the military must be capable and effective in executing the strategy.

When the US began operations in October 2001, as a reaction to the al Qaeda attacks on 9/11, our government's strategy was clear, the support of the American population was robust and the early military operations were successful. But as years passed, the clear national objectives changed, the support of the public began to lag (as exhibited by polling and the votes by representatives in the Congress) and the military mission became more complex and disjointed.

As we end this war, the government and the people will move on. But those who fought in Afghanistan will continue to be haunted by so many thoughts from so many experiences. When individuals fight hard as part of a military team and achieve success, they are deservedly proud of what they have accomplished and what they have contributed to national and global security.

But when a mission is ended abruptly, without a clear victory, those who fought will regret not having lived up to the oath of protecting and defending the Constitution and doing what they were asked to do: accomplishing the assigned mission.

Those who served in Afghanistan -- more than others -- will be plagued by doubts about their perceived lack of success: not finishing the missions assigned to them by the nation. Combined with elements of survivor's guilt because they returned home when their buddies didn't, those doubts will be exacerbated. But they did what they were asked to do, and they should be proud of their service.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 319704

Reported Deaths: 7369
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto22276267
Hinds20677421
Harrison18407317
Rankin13880282
Jackson13689248
Madison10249224
Lee10056176
Jones8464167
Forrest7827153
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Hancock386687
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Tate342486
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Pike3369111
Alcorn325972
Scott320174
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Simpson298189
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Marion271280
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Holmes190374
Clay187854
Stone187833
Tallahatchie180041
Clarke178980
Calhoun174132
Yalobusha167840
Smith164034
Walthall135347
Greene131833
Lawrence131024
Montgomery128643
Noxubee128034
Perry127138
Amite126342
Carroll122330
Webster115032
Jefferson Davis108033
Tunica108027
Claiborne103130
Benton102325
Humphreys97533
Kemper96629
Franklin85023
Quitman82216
Choctaw79118
Wilkinson69532
Jefferson66228
Sharkey50917
Issaquena1696
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 548323

Reported Deaths: 11288
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson809531565
Mobile42066826
Madison35663525
Tuscaloosa26162458
Shelby25595254
Montgomery25081612
Baldwin21839313
Lee16265176
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Morgan14626285
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Houston10764288
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Blount6944139
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Chilton4472116
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Covington4273122
Tallapoosa4136155
Escambia401780
Chambers3726124
Dallas3607156
Clarke352961
Marion3242106
Pike314078
Lawrence3129100
Winston283572
Bibb268464
Geneva257581
Marengo250665
Pickens236862
Barbour234659
Hale226878
Butler224071
Fayette218162
Henry193843
Cherokee187245
Randolph187044
Monroe179341
Washington170439
Macon162951
Clay160159
Crenshaw155657
Cleburne153244
Lamar146537
Lowndes142054
Wilcox127030
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