In April, the White House announced that the military will be pulled from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021- effectively ending the war on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The Biden Administration is breaking with Trump’s previously negotiated peace deal and extending the withdrawal deadline for symbolic purposes.
Trump’s deal committed the U.S. to decrease its troop level from 12,000 to 8,6000 within four-and-a-half months. The Taliban agreed to prohibit terrorists from using Afghanistan to plot anti-American attacks. The Taliban also pledged to start talks with Afghan leaders on a ceasefire.
Trump described his stance, saying: “You can only hold somebody’s hand for so long. We have to get back to running our country, too.” The former president is right. U.S. forces should not spend another day in Afghanistan–much less four months. The good news is that the Biden Administration has established a foreseeable deadline for troop withdrawal.
Unfortunately, this extension allows for the input of war hawks like John Bolton. The former advisor to George W. Bush and Donald Trump tweeted “a full unconditional retreat of U.S. forces from Afghanistan is reckless.” Bolton’s tweet encapsulates the position of the neoconservative foreign policy establishment. In 2020, hawkish Democrats and Republicans voted for an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would restrict Trump’s plan to withdraw troops. It is unlikely Biden will follow through with his promise because of the factions in both parties that purportedly support this endless war.
President Biden has an opportunity to withdraw from Afghanistan and prevent further American casualties. Failing to comply with the May deadline will likely dissolve the peace agreement. While the agreement is not perfect, it resulted in a year without any U.S. combat deaths. Maintaining a presence in Afghanistan will only further perpetuate the cycle of violence that continues to trap Afghans and American forces.
The foreign policy establishment will continue to make excuses for keeping a presence in Afghanistan. However, by their own admission, there is no clear objective in the region. This was made clear after the release of the Afghanistan Papers by the Washington Post. The Afghanistan Papers are internal documents from the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction that interviewed more than 600 people. These individuals consisted of generals, diplomats, aid workers, Afghan officials, and others with knowledge about the war. The more than two thousand pages showed the government purposely misinforming Americans about the war. The documents were originally suppressed by the U.S. government. After years of legal battles, The Washington Post was able to publish the papers.
According to the documents, the government allocated over $133 billion to nation-building in Afghanistan. An executive at the United States Agency for International Development approximated that 90 percent of the spending was wasted.
The Pentagon also released formerly classified memos about the Afghanistan war written by Donald Rumsfeld during his time at the Department of Defense. Rumsfeld told generals and senior aides: “We are never going to get the U.S. military out of Afghanistan unless we take care to see that there is something going on that will provide the stability that will be necessary for us to leave. Help!”
However, Rumsfeld supported methods that military officials used to lie to the public. One National Security Council official admitted to altering statistics: “The metrics were always manipulated for the duration of the war.” A retired Army colonel claimed that “bad news was often stifled” and that “the truth was rarely welcome.”
Continuing our longest war has led to trillions of dollars of waste, a destabilized region, and the loss of human life on both sides. There is no strategic reason to stay in Afghanistan. President Biden should look to Trump’s foreign policy instincts for guidance and follow through with the Taliban peace deal.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.