United States President Joe Biden recently announced that he will withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan by September 11, ending the United States’ 20-year war in Afghanistan, according to Al Jazeera. President Biden’s announcement means that the United States will not abide by the earlier May 1 deadline set and negotiated under the Trump administration. A policy review conducted by the Biden administration determined it was “clear that withdrawing the remaining 2,500 troops [by the May 1 deadline] would be difficult and potentially unsafe,” furthers Al Jazeera.
A senior Biden administration official has stressed that the current administration is refusing to take a conditions-based approach. “The president has judged that a conditions-based approach, which has been the approach of the past two decades, is a recipe in staying in Afghanistan forever,” the official said according to Al Jazeera.
Criticism of the president’s decision has quickly rained down from Republican politicians. U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell accused Biden of planning to “turn tail and abandon the fight in Afghanistan,” reports Reuters. “Precipitously withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan is a grave mistake,” McConnell said, adding that effective counter-terrorism operations require presence and partners on the ground.
Currently, close to 2,500 U.S. soldiers are stationed in Afghanistan, compared to about the approximately 100,000 American soldiers who were stationed in the country during the surge in 2011, Reuters furthers. Throughout this 20-year long conflict, about 2,400 U.S. service members have been killed and many more thousands have been wounded, states Reuters.
Officials in Afghanistan are bracing for the withdrawal. “We will have to survive the impact of it, and it should not be considered as Taliban’s victory or takeover,” said a senior Afghan government source, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity.
The proposed troop withdrawal has stirred Afghan fear of a Taliban military victory once American troops are out of the picture. A UN report that came out the week of Biden’s announcement stated there was a 29 percent increase in the number of civilians killed and injured during the first three months of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020, with the Taliban and other anti-government elements mainly responsible, reports CNN. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has stated that he “respects the U.S. decision,” but Afghanistan’s parliament speaker, Mir Rahman Rahmani, has warned the country might slide into civil war, furthers CNN. Although there is a desire among the native Afghan population for the American soldiers to leave, Rahmani does not believe now is the right time.
The American intelligence community is also concerned about the potential impacts from the troop withdrawal. Once senior Biden administration officials disclosed the plans of the withdrawal, the U.S. intelligence community expressed unease about the future of the U.S.-backed government in Kabul, which has steadily lost ground against the resurgent Taliban forces, states Al Jazeera.
“The Afghan government will struggle to hold the Taliban at bay if the coalition withdraws support,” said the U.S. assessment, which was sent to Congress. “Kabul continues to face setbacks on the battlefield, and the Taliban is confident it can achieve military victory,” furthers Al Jazeera.
In response to the anticipated U.S. withdrawal, NATO is coordinating their own troop withdrawal. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin briefed NATO officials on the U.S. decision to withdraw in Brussels and quickly won support from the alliance, states The Associated Press. The U.S. will coordinate with NATO allies and partners for a drawdown of their forces within the same time frame, a senior Biden administration official states, and has told the Taliban that any attacks on U.S. troops during that process will “be met with a forceful response,” reports NPR. Furthermore, NATO has agreed to withdraw roughly 7,000 non-American forces from Afghanistan and will be departing within a few months, The Associated Press furthers.
Blinken also traveled to Afghanistan to discuss the change in U.S.-Afghan relations with Afghan officials. “I wanted to demonstrate with my visit the ongoing commitment of the United States to the Islamic Republic and the people of Afghanistan,” Blinken said as he met President Ghani in Kabul. He added that “the partnership is changing, but the partnership is enduring,” according to NBC.
Courtesy of The U.S. Army (Flickr)