Ex-Defense Secretaries Urge US to Stay in Afghanistan

Esper, Gates say war needs to continue

President Biden was already heading for the decision to abandon the US-Taliban peace deal and keep troops in Afghanistan. He’s now got a pair of former defense secretaries piling on, urging him to keep this war going.

Mark Esper, one of Trump’s secretaries, says he opposed Trump’s goal to reduce troops to 2,500, and said the US should stay at 4,500 on the grounds that Afghanistan would be a terrorist safe haven without them.

Robert Gates, the last defense secretary under President Bush and first under President Obama, echoed that sentiment, saying that leaving would mean the Taliban “take all the marbles,” and that keeping the war going was the “least bad option.”

Since both secretaries oversaw parts of the losing war, keeping it going delays having to admit to it being a losing cause. It is interesting that both are Republican appointees trying to steer the Democrat president into disavowing a peace deal made by the last Republican administration.

The Afghan War has been a bipartisan failure, of course, but after 20 years it seems there is inexhaustible momentum among former officials to keep things going, if only to avoid reviewing the aftermath and figuring out what went wrong.

As a practical matter, they are only saying what Biden wants to hear anyhow, as the president began backing away from peace pretty much the moment he took office. The question seems to be how badly he will bungle into re-escalating, as Trump and Obama did, and how long it will take before he figures out the folly of the conflict and tries again to extricate America from it.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of Antiwar.com.