By John Krull
INDIANAPOLIS—It’s amazing how many things Americans think are easy that just aren’t.
For example, consider the campaign to hold Osama bin Laden accountable for the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and the failed assault on the White House on Sept. 11, 2001.
Nearly 20 years ago, many Americans assumed it would be easy to chase down bin Laden. There were jokes that it should be almost effortless to find and capture a tall terrorist who was dependent on dialysis to stay alive.
It turned out that it wasn’t.
It took almost 10 years for U.S. forces to track bin Laden down and kill him.
That shouldn’t have been surprising.
Consider the case of Eric Rudolph.
Rudolph is a domestic terrorist who bombed several abortion clinics in the South before setting off a bomb at the 1996 Olympics. That bomb killed one person and wounded more than 110 others. Another person at the bombing died of a heart attack.
Law enforcement officials identified Rudolph as the prime suspect in 1998. He went into hiding in the hills of western North Carolina.
He wasn’t caught until five years later, on May 31, 2003.
That capture didn’t occur because the law-enforcement net had closed in on him. Instead, it happened when Rudolph wandered down out of the hills into a town and began rummaging through a grocery-store dumpster.
A rookie police officer spotted what he thought was a robbery in progress and detained Rudolph, who was unarmed and did not resist.
(There even has been speculation Rudolph had grown tired of running and wanted to be caught.)
So, even in their native land, where our trained police officers and FBI agents knew both the country, the customs and the language, it took half a decade to bring one man to heel.
That it took considerably longer to do so in a country where we had the same level of knowledge in none of those areas shouldn’t have been a shock.
What our people were trying to do—and ultimately did do—was difficult.
This brings me to the wind-down of the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan and our withdrawal from that tortured nation.
The immediate response to President Joe Biden’s decision to pull out of Afghanistan and evacuate both U.S. personnel and American allies has been savage. Much of that criticism has been partisan.
But not all of it.
Again, the assumption seems to be that ending a 20-year war and removing both our people and our friends from a hostile environment is an easy thing anyone could do.
The challenges the U.S. faced in dealing with Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana and Hurricane Maria should have taught us that. The management of those two disasters showed how hard it can be just to move people from one place to another.
(And, I might add, followers of a former president who thought throwing paper towels at a photo op was an adequate response to people needing food, water and medical care might want to temper all their criticism going forward.)
The reality is that, as I write this, U.S. forces have evacuated more than 70,000 people from Afghanistan and continue to remove thousands more each day. No U.S. soldiers have lost their lives in the process. And the Biden administration even seems to have negotiated a temporary understanding with the Taliban that has kept deadly shooting between American forces and their adversaries for the past two decades from breaking out.
Does that mean the process has been flawless?
But things never are in war—particularly in an ugly, misguided war such as this one has been.
What our people are doing isn’t easy.
Far from it.
No matter what some people seem to think.
John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.