President Barack Obama tried to get U.S. troops out of Afghanistan. It didn’t work.
President Donald Trump attempted the same thing. In fact, he had a May 2021 deadline for completing the task.
Now President Joe Biden has announced he’ll do it. He says there is no military solution to the political and security problems there. So, he ordered all U.S. troops out by September 11.
Will the third time be a charm? Or will the decision come back to haunt America? Some say it will destabilize the Afghan government. And lead to Taliban control.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said Biden is canceling “an insurance policy against another 9/11.”
9/11 Deadline Is Symbolic, Yet Real
A White House senior official said the withdrawal may occur before the deadline. But 9/11 – the 20th anniversary of the terror attacks on U.S. soil – is both the final (and symbolic) deadline. NATO troops will follow the same withdrawal timeline.
The U.S. has made it clear to the Taliban that attacks on troops as they leave will be met with retaliation. In recent months the Taliban has attacked U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Including last month at an installation where CIA troops were located.
Some senior U.S. military commanders have spoken out against the troop removal. They warn that Taliban battlefield gains will result. As it is, the Taliban controls large areas of the country.
There are currently 2,500 to 3,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. A small number will stay to provide diplomatic security. NATO troops number about 7,000.
This withdrawal does not take into account U.S. special operations forces in the country. Mainly because they are not officially acknowledged.
It’s estimated there are several hundred of these forces in Afghanistan. Their work on behalf of the CIA involves counterterrorism missions.
Regardless, the withdrawal means the end of the longest war in U.S. history. The events of September 11, 2001 launched the invasion of Afghanistan.
Approximately 800,000 U.S. soldiers and military personnel have served at least one stint in Afghanistan since 9/11. More than 2,300 U.S. troops have lost their lives there. Another 20,000-plus have been wounded.
Following the withdrawal, the main U.S. role in the country will be diplomatic only. Such as helping arrange peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas said he was happy with Biden’s decision. But
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is an outspoken critic. As he was when Trump set a May deadline following negotiations with the Taliban.
“Precipitously withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan is a grave mistake,” McConnell said. “It is a retreat in the face of an enemy that has not yet been vanquished.”
Graham called the decision “a disaster in the making,” “dumber than dirt” and “devilishly dangerous.”
Democrat lawmakers are largely backing Biden’s decision. But Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez expressed concern.
He said he wants to get U.S. troops home. But he’s worried “we don’t lose what we were seeking to achieve.”
Democrat Senator Jeanne Shaheen is on Menendez’s committee. She’s “very disappointed” with the decision.
She said, “The U.S. has sacrificed too much” to leave before Afghanistan is assured of a secure future.
In defending its decision, the Biden Administration says the terrorism threat is no longer concentrated in Afghanistan.
Rather, it has expanded to other countries. Including Yemen, Syria, Somalia and Northern Africa.
The al-Qaeda network may no longer be capable of an attack on U.S. soil. But it can still target American interests and personnel in those countries.
The war in Afghanistan has cost American taxpayers an estimated $2 trillion.
A senior U.S. official said this. “We went to Afghanistan to deliver justice to those who attacked us on September 11th. And to disrupt terrorists seeking to use Afghanistan as a safe haven to attack.
“We believe we achieved that objective some years ago. We judge the threat against the homeland now emanating from Afghanistan to be at a level that we can address it.
“Without a persistent military footprint in the country and without remaining at war with the Taliban.
“The president deeply believes… we need to be focusing our energy, our resources, our personnel… in those threats and challenges… most acute for the United States.” Doing that “requires us to close the book on a 20-year conflict in Afghanistan.”
Some are concerned civil rights gained in recent years by Afghan women will be in jeopardy once U.S. troops leave.
Shaheen said the withdrawal “undermines our commitment to the Afghan people. Particularly Afghan women.”
The White House says Biden will seek “diplomatic, economic and humanitarian tools” with other countries. For the purpose of protecting those rights.
Fawzia Koofi is an Afghan women’s rights activist. She tweeted, “What we want now from Taliban is peace. And life in dignity and harmony.”
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