Joe Biden, the illegitimate resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, may have brought about the worst humiliation in American foreign policy in history: he stranded 10,000 Americans in Kabul, in an unnecessarily hasty retreat from Afghanistan. The Taliban retook control of the country in less than 10 days, as Afghan Army soldiers simply threw down their weapons. The Taliban now occupy Kabul and may enter the airport at any time; in fact, they are in a position to prevent flights in and out of Kabul. The American Military needs to plan for the possibility that Muslim extremists will not allow a peaceful withdrawal of the US and its Allies from the country. If air travel out of Kabul is closed, the US will have no choice but to withdraw overland. Unlike the British retreat from Afghanistan in 1842, an American-led Anabasis has the tools and ingredients for a successful outcome.
In 1841-1842, the British had no means of protecting the front, flanks, or rear of their retreating column of soldiers and dependents. The United States, however, has the best Air Force of the modern age, both land and carrier-based, with the means to deliver precision weapons strikes, with the help of spotters on the ground. An American-Allied convoy withdrawing overland, accompanied by Special Forces teams equipped with precision laser targeting devices, can guide U.S. munitions onto hostile tribesmen with pinpoint accuracy. American military satellites, combined with ground spotters, might be able to guide a volume of firepower so locally tremendous, that it will not be possible for Taliban fighters to come close enough to aim at the US Column, down the sights of a rifle.
It will of course be necessary to secure Pakistan’s cooperation, for the US to make a successful retreat from Kabul, otherwise the Column would be on a road to nowhere. The traditional carrot and stick approach – the former in the shape of American aid packages, the latter being the spectre of a military threat from India, could make for a safe arrival of the US Column from Kabul. Like the combat retreat of a Greek army across Persia, over 2,500 years ago, such a feat would truly be worthy of Xenophon’s “March of the Ten Thousand”.
Blog Editor Patrick Cloutier is the author of Mussolini’s War in the East 1941-1943.