Why can't this question be asked to George W Bush? https://t.co/BOXP7dZlf6— David Weissman (@davidmweissman) August 20, 2021
The President also said there is no national security interest, no national interest, in Afghanistan. I'm a little confused by that. Can you explain why there is no national interest n Afghanistan, why did we have troops there for twenty years if there is no national interest in Afghanistan?
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby responds
We had a significant interest in being in Afghanistan, to our national security, twenty years ago. You've heard the President talk about this. The goals was to defeat, decimate Al Qaeda, to prevent Al Qaeda from launching attacks on the homeland from Afghanistan. We did that.
Mission accomplished! It was great that the USA invaded Afghanistan twenty years ago, and great that we've now left. It's a perfect world.
Obviously, a question of why soldiers were dispatched to Afghanistan twenty years ago with no national interest involved is much better posed to the President who actually dispatched those soldiers.
Kirby's answer, though, is revealing. His argument rests on two propositions: a) the incursion twenty years ago prevented Al Qaeda from attacking the USA; b) the withdrawal will not reinvigorate Al Qaeda to the extent that it will be able to launch terrorist attacks it would not otherwise have been able to.
Either may be true, neither may be true, or one or the other may be. Kirby notes Al Qaeda is degraded, though Biden had (inaccurately) claimed it is "gone" from Afghanistan. (Note: age takes its toll.) That may be enough.
Or not. As The New York Times summarized, "The Taliban are in power again without the help of Al Qaeda, and they have understood that they lost their government and their country in 2001 because of Al Qaeda. " However, the other is "American intelligence capabilities in Afghanistan will be degraded with no military or diplomatic presence on the ground and with American troops and drones based hundreds of miles away."
Or perhaps both will prevail. The Taliban may tread carefully because Al Qaeda got the Taliban in trouble the first time around. Yet, whatever intelligence capabilities we had in Afghanistan we probably no longer have. It's a situation which can confuse anyone, particularly a reporter who would ask today's Pentagon about a perceived national security interest 20 years before Joe Biden became President.