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The Afghanistan Withdrawal: Incompetence or Malfeasance?

With U.S. forces out of Afghanistan for the first time in two decades, the withdrawal process is critiqued and dissected.

Patrick Lawrence, contributor and publisher of the Substack The Scrum, and former intelligence community officer Keith Rose share their insights on the effect of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

In Rose’s view, the U.S.’s abrupt departure left many of our supporters exposed, unable to defend themselves. He cites several actions, including the failure to destroy the identification of Afghanis who had been working for the U.S., as “beyond malfeasance.” 

“We didn't just leave too fast,” he says. “We empowered the wrong people. We put at risk those that helped us, so now our allies won't trust us and our enemies won't fear us.” He calls it a “disaster” not just for Afghanistan but also for the U.S. “If we don't recognize and learn from that,” Rose says, “it doesn't bode well for the future.”

Lawrence agrees, saying that although the withdrawal was necessary, the U.S. should not have been in Afghanistan in the first place. He states that he hopes the situation leads to improved foreign policy, although he concedes that prospect “doesn't look very good.”

Rose cites several examples of malfeasance and “gross incompetence,” including the “precipitous” closure of Bagram Airfield and the failure to remove $85 billion worth of military equipment. Lawrence, however, feels such actions might have been an attempt by the military to disgrace civilians.

Rose and Lawrence both offer their takes on why these actions occurred—and were allowed to occur. Rose cites China’s lack of rare earth minerals, particularly the lithium and copper that are abundant in Afghanistan. “I think at the end of the day,” he says, “China is the big winner in all this.”

“Empire abroad or democracy at home,” Lawrence says. “You can have one or the other, but you can't have both.”