Washington (AP) – U.S. President Joe Biden announced an end to the mission in Afghanistan on Aug. 31 and defended the withdrawal of U.S. troops against mounting criticism. “I’m not going to send another generation of Americans to the war in Afghanistan,” Biden said in a White House address. The US president admitted to reporters that the militant Islamist Taliban are now stronger than at any time since the fall of their regime in late 2001. But a takeover by the Taliban is “not inevitable,” he said.
Originally, Biden had announced September 11 as the deadline for the end of the mission. Then it will be 20 years since the terrorist attacks of the terrorist network Al-Qaeda in the US, which started the operation. Despite the looming situation, Biden would not admit a failure of the US mission. He said the operation had two goals: to take Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden “to the gates of hell” and to deprive the terror network of the ability to attack the United States from Afghanistan. “We have achieved both goals.”
Biden also said, “We didn’t go to Afghanistan to build a nation.” In fact, for most of the US-led operation, the goal was very well to stabilize Afghanistan, build democracy and uphold human rights. Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai told the Chinese Global Times in an interview: “It is clear that the US has failed.”
Opposition: “Urgent catastrophe”
Prominent Republican Senator Lindsey Graham called Democrat Biden’s withdrawal decision “an impending disaster”. Graham criticized on Twitter that Biden failed to understand that conditions in Afghanistan were just developing for a resurgence of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State terrorist militia, which posed a threat to the United States.
Afghan security forces are rapidly losing ground and the Taliban are occupying more and more districts. At the start of the week, more than 1,000 Afghan soldiers fled to neighboring Tajikistan in fear for their lives. The “Wall Street Journal” reported late last month of new assessments by US intelligence agencies that the Afghan government of President Ashraf Ghani could fall six to 12 months after the US troop withdrawal – Biden denied that. US commander in Afghanistan Austin Miller said last week, according to US media reports, “Civil war is certainly a path you can imagine if it continues as it is now.”
How bad things are going is also apparent from the withdrawal of the Americans. In a night and fog operation, US forces left their main base in Bagram late last week — without even informing Afghan allies. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby confirmed that neither the Afghan government nor the military were knowingly aware of the exact time of the withdrawal. “I can’t say how the Afghans interpreted this decision, but it was a decision that was made in the interest of the safety of our people.” After nearly 20 years of fighting together, trust looks different.
Biden opposed comparisons to the US defeat in the Vietnam War. “The Taliban are not the North Vietnamese army,” he said. There will be no pictures like the one from Saigon in 1975, where Americans and allied Vietnamese were flown in helicopters from the roof of the US embassy. That Biden is faced with such comparisons at all says something about the US military operation in Afghanistan, which his spokeswoman Jen Psaki described as: “It’s a 20-year war that hasn’t been won militarily.”
Soldiers still protect the embassy in Kabul
Biden had single-handedly decided to withdraw from the US, knowing that this would also mean the end of NATO’s mission. The Bundeswehr flew the last German soldiers out of Afghanistan last week. During the election campaign, Biden had already pledged to end “eternal wars” in the US like the one in Afghanistan — his predecessors in the White House had failed because of the project.
More than 1,800 US soldiers have been killed in attacks or clashes in Afghanistan since deployment in October 2001, and more than 20,000 were injured. According to the Pentagon, soldiers will remain in Afghanistan after the military mission, mainly to protect the embassy in Kabul.
Biden wants to ‘talk about happy things’
The Washington Post recently noted that Biden must reconsider the rapid withdrawal he ordered in the face of the incipient disintegration of the Afghan government and military. Instead, he was “cold” given the country’s plight. Biden is sticking to his course, even as the withdrawal jeopardizes the achievements of 20 years of international engagement. When a reporter approached him about the plight in Afghanistan, he said, “I want to talk about happy things.”