American troops have been in Afghanistan for 20 years, keeping the Taliban quiet and helping the Afghan people live with some sense of autonomy and peace. They have also served as a deterrent to terrorist groups that wish harm to America and the rest of the world. But in a hasty decision that did not account for all variables, President Joe Biden insisted the American troops be removed by the 20-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. In less than a week, Kabul is filled with chaos, the Afghan president has fled, and the Taliban is back in power.
After September 11, 2001, then President George W. Bush invaded Iraq and Afghanistan to find the attackers. With the full support of Congress, they quickly found al-Qaeda and wrongly assumed that once they extricated the bad guys from Afghanistan, they could leave the country with the Afghan people in charge. But it didn’t work that way. Bush built a nation of democracy, saying “The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands.” In 2009, there were 25,000 troops in Afghanistan when Bush left office.
When President Barack Obama assumed leadership, he ended the war in Iraq and decided that he would need a large surge of troops to do so in Afghanistan, at one time having as many as 100,000 troops on the ground. In 2014, he declared the war was over, but Obama knew that if he actually ended the war, he would experience exactly what Biden is experiencing now. In 2017, when Obama left office, about 9,000 troops remained.
Under President Donald Trump’s presidency, the Taliban signed a peace agreement saying that Afghanistan would not house terrorists, but without a way to enforce that law, that is exactly what the Taliban has done, quietly build up their terrorist regime. When Trump left office, there were 2,500 troops that were keeping the peace and keeping a stable way of life going for the Afghan people.
The United States’ mission accomplished much for the Afghan people since 2001. The economy flourished, the people approved of the constitution, and Afghans today are generally better off than they were 20 years ago. But no one had figured out a way to gracefully get out of Afghanistan, and the Afghan people are going to bear the brunt of that lack of planning. Without a plan in place, all this work over the past 20 years will probably be for naught as the Taliban comes rushing back to power.
Troops Withdraw from Afghanistan
By withdrawing the troops from Afghanistan, essentially Biden has removed the safety net for the Afghan people, as well as the world. Biden claimed it was the Afghan people alone who should decide their fate and style of government, and that is why he decided to leave them to their own devices.
Paul D. Miller, who served as director for Afghanistan and Pakistan on the National Security Council for Presidents George W. Bush and Obama, said “The U.S. presence in Afghanistan the last few years was tiny—just 2,500 troops before the start of the final withdrawal. It was indefinitely sustainable.” But extracting the 2,500 troops will have negative ripples for future generations, as the Afghan people are basically back to square one.
A Country in Chaos
It didn’t take long for the Taliban to seize power. Astoundingly, they seized control of the entire country in just over a week. The former president Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan fled the country quickly as well. The Atlantic reported, “It is a major disaster for the credibility of the West, whose promises to stand up for the safety of allies threatened by authoritarian competitors such as Russia and China will now sound even more hollow. And it is a major disaster for the United States, which will be much less secure now that the Taliban has freed a significant number of al-Qaeda operatives, and may once again allow terrorist groups to establish training grounds in Afghanistan.”
Rina Amiri, a former official at the State Department and United Nations, said, “It’s just damning that the United States and the international community have put these women in the position of having to risk not only their lives, but that of their children and families, in order to leave and save themselves and their families,”
“You failed the younger generation of Afghanistan, said Aisha Khurram, 22, who is now unsure of whether she will be able to graduate in two months. She said her generation was “hoping to build the country with their own hands. They put blood, efforts, and sweat into whatever we had right now.”
With so few troops kept in Afghanistan, acting as a deterrent to the Taliban outweighed the potential loss of life. If the United States simply stayed in place, they would have avoided this global crisis that will harm generations of people, especially the young women of Afghanistan.
There have been over 200 casualties just in the past week because of violence carried out by terrorist groups in Afghanistan. These recent tragedies serve as yet another staunch reminder that leaving an unstable situation to its own devices has dire consequences for innocent people.