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Biden announces US plans to withdraw from the war in Afghanistan, calling attention to future challenges – The Diplomat


“I am currently the fourth US president to preside over the US military presence in Afghanistan,” US President Joe Biden said in a speech on April 14. “Two Republicans. Two Democrats. I will not pass this responsibility on to a fifth ”.

Biden’s speech formally announced his administration’s decision to begin the final withdrawal from Afghanistan in May and complete on September 11, 2021, the 20th anniversary of the al-Qaida attacks in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, DC. on the road leading to war in Afghanistan.

Notice was previewed in one press call on April 13, during which a high-ranking government official broadcast the news and caused a stir among the commentators.

The Editorial Board of Washington Post immediately made bakes for Biden because there was an “easy way out”. The Chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations, Richard N. Haas, opposed the decision to go about Twitter: “It’s disappointing that admin Biden chose to withdraw troops from Afghanistan on schedule rather than based on conditions. The cost of staying is relatively low (3K soldiers, no Americans have been killed since February 20); the cost of leaving (resurgence of terror, the suppression spiked by the Taliban, affecting the reputation of the United States) is high. “Republican lawmakers, like Senators Lindsey Graham, was very sharp in their comments: “A complete retreat from Afghanistan is worse than filthy and devilish danger.” Some Jacobinic Lawmakers were also dismayed.

Others have more nuances, such as Eliot A. Cohen, writer for The Atlantic “It may not be the time to make a final ruling on the US war in Afghanistan – we are simply too close to make measurable judgments.” An American outlet, he noted, is not the end of the war; And leaving comes at a real moral expense. Collecting Belfer Center opinion reflect a wide range of positions worth thinking.

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For nearly 20 years, the US mission in Afghanistan has changed and turned around. The Americans have pledged to never forget the cause of their initiation – the September 11 attacks – but the war it caused has faded from view for many. Biden remarked that a decade ago, in 2011, the United States captured Osama bin Laden, whom he and many others had pledged to follow “to the gate of hell”. However, the US military is still in Afghanistan.

The question of why the United States is still involved in the war persists, annoyingly, as well as questions about what the United States seeks to accomplish and when it will leave.

Previous attempts to set timelines have given way to military raids, in an attempt to create the right “conditions” for the US to withdraw, have probably won. President Donald Trump has followed the same model as his predecessor: promoting a withdrawal, strengthening the army, then withdrawing but not completely. The Trump administration insists it will follow a “condition-based” withdrawal plan, then proceed to agree and follow a time-based schedule. “Conditions” is a white whale, unattainable; they serve as a fig leaf for failure.

“We cannot continue the cycle of extending or expanding our military presence in Afghanistan in the hopes of creating ideal conditions for the withdrawal and expecting a different outcome,” Biden said.

In his statement, Biden said that the September 11 attacks “could not explain” why US forces should stay in Afghanistan 20 years later. The arguments made by Biden’s decision critics focus extensively on the possibility of reversing the social and political progress achieved in the US war in Afghanistan, especially on women, and the notion that Afghanistan could once again become a training ground for terrorists. It is not clear how the US military’s stay in Afghanistan prevented either of them from achieving satisfaction.

During the April 13 press call, a senior government official said, “We assess the threat against the homeland currently emanating from Afghanistan to a level that we can tackle without. has persistent military footprint in the country and does not leave war with the Taliban. “

While the Taliban have largely stopped attacks on US forces after the February 2020 deal, their attacks on Afghan government forces continued. Meanwhile, a terrifying campaign of intentional assassinations has killed an increasing number of journalists, activists and others, many of them women – all while the US military remains in the country.

Afghan civil society has been demanding a seat on the negotiating table, from both the Taliban and the Afghan government, said Broader social input is crucial to establish any kind of lasting peace. That is not what the US military stationed in Afghanistan, by any measure, has the power to provide. It, like the peace process, is in the hands of the Afghans.

Few are so foolish that the war in Afghanistan can be “won.” The administration official on April 13 explained this way: “We have long known that military forces will not address Afghanistan’s internal political challenges, will not end conflict. internal of Afghanistan. “

In his speech, Biden recounted a trip to the Kunar valley of Afghanistan in 2008, weeks before being sworn in as vice president. “What I saw on that trip only strengthened my belief that only Afghans had the right and responsibility to govern their country. And moreover, and endlessly, US military forces cannot create or sustain a lasting Afghan government.

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This is not to say that there are no risks of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, but that the challenges facing the US go far beyond it. Biden describes the terrorist threat that has metastasized, becoming more dispersed around the world. Biden argues that keeping thousands of troops in Afghanistan simply doesn’t make sense.

“There is a significant risk that the US and coalition forces retreat,” said new CIA director William Burns. told US Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday. However, he added, the United States will retain “a set of capabilities.”

There exist a wide range of foreign policy instruments in the vast space between military occupation and complete renunciation. The Biden administration wants to use those tools.

The administration official on April 13 went on to make it clear that the United States would continue to be “deeply attached” to the Afghan government and remain committed to the Afghan people. To that end, the United States will continue to support the diplomatic process and “we will also seek to cooperate with other countries using diplomatic, economic, and humanitarian tools for protection. benefits gained by Afghan women ”.

Biden echoed this in his speech, saying that in addition to its ongoing support for the peace process, the US will “continue to support Afghan women and girls by upholding humanitarian support and distribution. important development. ”

Biden and his administration framed their decision as an attempt to “address the global picture of the threat that exists today, not as it was two decades ago,” as the administration official said. launched on April 13.

“We must focus on the challenges that lie ahead,” Biden said, listing the need to “track down and disrupt” terrorist networks spreading beyond Afghanistan; strengthening the United States’ competitiveness to face “an increasingly assertive China”; work with democratic allies and partners to cope with the challenges of emerging technologies; and defeat the current pandemic (and prepare for the next one). “We would be much more formidable … if we fought in the battles of the next 20 years, not 20 years ago.”

On Wednesday, before his speech, Biden called Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. “Afghanistan respects the US decision and we will work with US partners to ensure a smooth transition,” Ghani to speak after the call. Other Afghan lawmakers have warning of an imminent civil war after the US withdrew; Such concerns are not new.

It is worth remembering what Sohrab Azad wrote for The Diplomat in November 2020, evaluating a core paradox:

If the Biden administration maintains a small military presence and the Taliban decide to withdraw from the peace talks, a diplomatic solution is nearly impossible. If Biden decides to retreat entirely, a decisive military victory for the Afghan government would be near impossible.

As for the Taliban, they have the resources and infrastructure to continue the war. For Americans, disseminating COVID-19 at home and rebuilding global alliances will soon become their main focus. For Afghans, this is a win-lose situation.

If the war is a win-lose situation for the Afghans, it’s a no-win scenario for the Americans. Biden was set by circumstances and his predecessors to choose from among the worst options, and he decided.

“Nobody wants to say that we should stay in Afghanistan forever. But they insist now is not the right time to leave, ”Biden remarked in his speech. He noted that seven years ago, in 2014, NATO said that the Afghan security forces would take full responsibility for the security of the country by the end of that year.

“So when is the right time to leave? One year? Two years? Ten years from now? Add 10, 20, 30 billion dollars out of the trillions we’ve spent? Not now. That’s how we got here. “



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