President Joe Biden announced the withdrawal of all US troops in Afghanistan today. He set the deadline on September 11. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
This terrorist act started what became America’s longest war. During this period, more than 2,300 US troops in Afghanistan died. Another 20,000 troops received injuries there since October 2001.
US troops in Afghanistan are Coming Home
Roughly 2,500 US troops currently remain on duty in Afghanistan at present. That number pales in comparison to the record high of 100,000 American troops deployed in 2010 and 2011. A senior administration official and a US defense official earlier confirmed Biden’s decision as reported by The Washington Post.
Withdrawal will begin by the end of April and will complete before September 11. The target end date marks the significant day in 2001 the conflict involving Afghanistan started.
The official said that the number of troops remaining in the country would end at zero. In addition, ground conditions won’t affect the withdrawal. “This is not conditions-based.
The president has judged that a conditions-based approach, which has been the approach of the past two decades, is a recipe for staying in Afghanistan forever,” the official said. “We have told the Taliban in no uncertain terms that any attacks on US troops as we undergo a safe and orderly withdrawal will be met with a forceful response,” he added.
With the withdrawal, the United States will then focus on the ongoing peace process with the Taliban and the Afghan government. During negotiations, US troops won’t act as “bargaining chips” during the process.
“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 official said.
Republicans, Democrats Oppose Full Withdrawal
The top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Representative Michael McCaul (TX), opposed Biden’s decision.
By not leaving a residual force behind, the US will “pit Afghans at risk” as well as endanger American lives. Note that Biden previously supported stationing troops in Afghanistan during the election campaign last year. Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, the senior Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, begged to differ too.
“Arbitrary deadlines would likely put our troops in danger, jeopardize all the progress we’ve made, and lead to civil war in Afghanistan — and create a breeding ground for international terrorists. We’re talking about protecting American lives here.”
Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also opposed Biden’s move. “Although this decision was made in coordination w/our allies, the US has sacrificed too much to bring stability to Afghanistan to leave w/o verifiable assurances of a secure future,” Shaheen tweeted.
“It undermines our commitment to the Afghan people, particularly Afghan women. I urge the Biden admin to make every effort between now and September to safeguard the progress made and support our partners in the formation of an inclusive, transitional government,” she added.
Peace Deal Prospects Remain Low
Despite the withdrawal, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released an assessment that said prospects for a peace deal remain low for next year.
“The Taliban is likely to make gains on the battlefield, and the Afghan Government will struggle to hold the Taliban at bay if the coalition withdraws support,” the assessment read.
Mick Mulroy, former deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East, said moving forces elsewhere is risky. Gains made against the Taliban, which protected Al-Qaeda, the group behind the September 11 attacks, al-Qaida, might disappear.
“While it is understandable to want all our forces to come home, it should not be at the expense of losing what we have gained to do so. We should keep enough of a force there in order to conduct counterterrorism operations and enable our partners to continue their fight against the very group we went there to defeat.” Mulroy said.
Watch the CNBC TV video where President Joe Biden announces the U.S. will withdraw its troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11:
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