Is Biden right to ‘squarely stand’ behind his decision with Afghanistan?
The war in Afghanistan has gone on long enough; President Biden is right to withdraw. It is disheartening to see the country fall so quickly to the Taliban, but it seems this would have been the case in another year, two, or even another decade. It simply doesn’t make sense to spend more blood and treasure on endless war.
One mark of a great leader is the ability to stand firmly behind decisions, especially when they are controversial. This is important when many Americans are unsure and conflicted about the withdrawal since many Americans have either served or know someone who has and don’t want to feel that their sacrifices were in vain. President Biden’s firm stance on leaving Afghanistan shows that he has taken the service of the thousands of men and women seriously, and this action was not taken on a whim, only to be walked back later. Many veterans may be asking questions about the value of their work and whether it was worth it. We need a strong leader to guide us through this moment with a solid position, guided by experts and those who have been in the country.
Though many of Biden’s political rivals will spin the narrative to tarnish his administration, the fact is that ending the endless war in Afghanistan is a politically smart move. Many Americans have expressed that our leaders haven’t spent enough political capital on average Americans, favoring expensive foreign policy outings instead. By redirecting the government’s efforts toward main street America, Biden is helping to stave off the populism that ushered in the Trump era.
Last month Biden stated that withdrawal from Afghanistan was proceeding in a 'secure and orderly way' and that the Taliban would not take over when the US left, but recent scenes have put the lie to these claims. Regardless of whether one agrees with leaving or staying, it seems clear that Biden's decision on how and when to leave was disastrous.
Biden failed to arrange for the evacuation of contractors and civilians, leading to total chaos at the airport. There are an estimated 11,000 US citizens still in Afghanistan and a large number of Afghan nationals who assisted the US over the last two decades. Rather than secure an exit with our own troops, Biden chose to rely on the Afghan army, whose numbers may be overestimated. After losing logistic and air support, the Taliban overrun the remaining Afghans. Within mere days, the Taliban got control of the country and has billions in US arms, equipment, and supplies.
In his haste to end a strategic war, Biden has created a monumental humanitarian disaster. Afghani women are now in fear of their lives. The Taliban claims they will protect women's rights, but history and reports on the ground suggest otherwise. Can the administration seriously say it cares about women's rights when it has allowed this to happen?
What kind of message does this send to all of America's allies when we abandon them without any support? Wherever our next conflict is, it won't be easy to get other nations to support us or get locals to trust and help our troops again.
- President Biden made a speech at the White House on August 16, 2021, and stated, “I stand squarely behind my decision. After 20 years, I’ve learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw US forces. [...] But I always promised the American people that I will be straight with you. The truth is: This did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated. [...] American troops cannot and should not be fighting in a war and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves”
- On April 15, 2021, Biden announced the withdrawal of the remaining US troops from Afghanistan by September 11, the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks carried out by al-Qaeda. He stated, “It’s time to end America’s longest war… but not conduct a hasty rush to the exit.”
- As the US exits Afghanistan, the Taliban has reportedly taken ‘four more provincial capitals,” giving them control of two thirds of the country. Critics worry the withdrawal “not only imperils US counterterrorism efforts, but that it also endangers Afghanistan’s fragile democracy.”
- On February 29, 2020, the US and the Taliban reached an “agreement for bringing peace” under the Trump administration. They had agreed to remove US troops in 14 months provided the militants banned al-Qaeda and extremist groups from areas of Taliban control.
- Although troops will be removed, Biden said the US will assist Afghan forces, diplomatic, and humanitarian work in the country.
- Since the start of the war in 2001, 2,312 US military personnel have died and 20,066 service members have been injured.