The ISD Editorial Board argues in favor of withdrawing all U.S. troops from Afghanistan and examines the consequences of doing so. 

Editor's Note: Editorials are representative of the views of all Editorial Board members. One or two members will compile these views and write an editorial.

For more than 20 years, the United States has been involved in a complex and costly war with terrorist groups and Taliban targets in Afghanistan. 

More than an estimated seven thousand Americans, 66 thousand Afghan military fighters, 47 thousand Afghan citizens (including women and children), four hundred aid workers and 70 journalists have perished between 2001 and the end of April of this year. 

To add to those terrible numbers: this past week, an attack by ISIS-K at the airport in Afghanistan’s capital city of Kabul killed more than 170 people. Thirteen of the victims were U.S. service members. 

The war has been given the moniker “the forever war” by some and many have criticized our nation’s leaders for failing to end the conflict sooner.

This conflict is set to end this week. 

President Biden announced that the U.S. would withdraw all combat personnel by Aug. 31 and he has repeatedly stated that the U.S. is on track to meet that deadline

When Biden first announced his plans to follow through with the Trump administration’s deal with the Taliban and withdraw all troops back in April, the ISD Editorial Board was cautious about celebrating too soon

“Perhaps the most glaring consequence [of withdrawal] will be a resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan,” the editorial board wrote. 

That’s no longer a possibility; it’s reality. The Taliban effectively seized control of Afghanistan in only a few months. 

Now, with the U.S. withdrawal almost finished and 20 years of defense erased in a week, the world is more concerned than ever about what will happen to those living under Taliban rule, and rightfully so. The Taliban, while claiming that they plan to do it differently this time, have a horrendous track record of human rights abuses and the oppression of women

The Biden administration made a grave error in underestimating the Taliban’s speed and success at seizing control of Afghanistan. The U.S. should have evacuated Afghan allies, such as interpreters, sooner. And the seeming lack of preparation by his administration is a press disaster for Biden. 

Despite all of these critiques, we agree that withdrawing U.S. forces was the right call. 

Think about how many American service members and Afghan citizens and service members died during these past 20 years, during a war that had no clear aim and that the U.S. did not win. 

The United States' continued presence in Afghanistan would no longer have had any constructive effect on the political or military makeup of the nation. 

Our main “goal,” if not well thought-out and poorly-executed, was to end the threat of terrorism against the U.S. In the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks, our focus was on eliminating the threat posed by al-Qaeda and its leader Osama bin Laden, who were under the protection of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

To get to al-Qaeda, the U.S. intervened with its military and removed the Taliban, pledging to replace the group with a democratic government. In 2011, the U.S. achieved one of its primary objectives by finding and killing Osama bin Laden.

The Taliban has committed to, as part of the Feb. 2020 deal with the Trump administration, not working with or harboring known al-Qaeda fighters. Despite this, many think the Taliban and al-Qaeda are inseparable.

Still, this is not a more important or dangerous threat than those poised by other regions and other terrorist groups, including from within the U.S., or even by other nations like China, Russia or North Korea (as we wrote back in April). 

It took the Taliban less than a few months to completely seize control — after more than two decades, thousands of lives lost and billions of dollars spent. Meanwhile, al-Qaeda found footholds elsewhere, and the threat from groups like ISIS-K have grown. After all, the bombing in Kabul was committed not by the Taliban, but by ISIS-K, who are also fighting the Taliban. 

So what, then, is the point of staying? The Biden administration chose to continue the deal the Trump administration struck with the Taliban. At this point, close to 117,000 people, most of whom are Afghan, have been evacuated since the Taliban seized control of Kabul. 

For those of you who would have rather the U.S. remained occupying Afghanistan, how long? How much longer would the U.S. need to remain? There was no good answer 20 years ago, and there’s no good answer now. 

If all goes according to plan, the last day of withdrawal will be the day before this editorial is published.

For a timeline of the last two decades in Afghanistan, starting before 2001, click here.

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(2) comments

Facts and Logic

Slow clap for the ISD Editorial Board for finally addressing the major issue in our world for the first time in about 4 months!

First, let's discuss the idea that this is a "forever" war. Firstly, 20 years is not remotely close to 'forever' - England and France fought a war literally called the "Hundred Years' War" from 1337 - 1453! Twenty years is hardly a 'forever' commitment, especially considering the length of time we've been in other countries.

As far as troop committments, as of April this year, there were 3,500 troops on the ground in Afghanistan (https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/biden-us-troop-withdrawal-afghanistan/2021/04/13/918c3cae-9beb-11eb-8a83-3bc1fa69c2e8_story.html). As of 2020, the United States had more than 64,000 troops stationed in Europe, over 70,000 in former Soviet states, over 80,000 in East Asia and the Pacific, and the list goes on(https://www.statista.com/statistics/222920/deployment-of-us-troops-in-selected-world-regions/). The argument that we are putting too many troops in Afghanistan is laughable. We have a relatively very small amount of troops stationed in Afghanistan.

The last casualty (before this debacle) occurred in February of 2020. Afghanistan was not a hot spot of conflict in any way.

There was no problem before this awful decision by the Biden administration. We had a skeletal force on the ground sustaining almost no casualties. We had a government established and were backing up Afghan forces with our own.

We had nothing to gain in leaving Afghanistan and a lot to lose - this was a political decision through and through and there isn't a great way to defend this failure of a foreign policy decision.

Seymour Trout

Contrary to the dim bulbs on the Daily staff, America won the war in Afghanistan by eliminating Al Qaeda and the bases from which it staged the Sep 11 attacks. By attacking them forcefully, it disrupted the follow on attacks on America in motion. For example, it stopped Al Qaeda from planting cyanide bombs in the New York City subway.

We should have pulled out our troops once we killed off Al Qaeda, retaining the ability to kill any subsequent infestations by air or special forces. Our attempt to convert Afghanistan into a modern Western nation was futile. Afghans can’t read. They’re ignorant as mud. Many of them thought US forces were Russians from the war in 1980s that they did not know ended.

It is comical that the Daily editors think that Biden’s botching of the evacuations is a press disaster, as if the dead and wounded matter only if they embarrass Biden.

Once we are gone, the Taliban will begin their bloodbath. They’ve already begun butchering people in cities and provinces beyond the view of the TV camera. Soon, it will begin throughout Kabul in earnest, with the Biden administration helpfully having handed the Taliban the lists of Americans and allied Afghans, which makes hunting them down and killing them so much easier. Heckuva job, Joe!

That said, the Taliban are no threat to America outside the borders of Afghanistan. The Taliban are Neanderthals who cannot navigate the modern world. They cannot project power outside Afghanistan.

The Taliban have won a country where most of its income came from America. Their first unsolvable problem is that their economy will be going into freefall. By year’s end, they will have one tenth the income they have now, which will be too little to keep the lights on.

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