If I ever follow through and write an autobiography, there would have be a chapter about my 2 lengthy trips to Afghanistan in 1969 and 1971. It was one of the places I loved most during my nearly 7-year self-imposed exile from the U.S. What a place! What a culture! What a people! What a history! What, more recently, a tragedy visited on mankind!
As you probably know if you pay attention to Afghanistan, Trump made a deal with the Taliban that included all U.S. troops out of the country by May 1 (two weeks from now). Biden shit-canned the Washington Post broke the story this morning that the U.S. will withdraw all troops by September 11, symbolically 2 decades after the start of the war. That's been our country's longest war-- but for the Afs... they've basically been at war at least since Alexander the Great invaded.
The Taliban "has vowed to renew attacks on U.S. and NATO personnel if foreign troops are not out by the [May 1] deadline. There are about 10,000 U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan now. I'm guessing there are also additional mercenaries active in the country.
Biden's always been a military-industrial complex kind of guy-- worse than Trump in some ways-- and I'm hoping his pushing the deadline back won't lead to a spiral of violence that leads to another disastrous Obama-like surge.
Biden’s decision comes after an administration review of U.S. options in Afghanistan, where U.S.-midwived peace talks have failed to advance as hoped and the Taliban remains a potent force despite two decades of effort by the United States to defeat the militants and establish stable, democratic governance. The war has cost trillions of dollars in addition to the lives of more than 2,000 U.S. service members and at least 100,000 Afghan civilians.
["Democratic governance?" Have The Post writers learned nothing at all in these 2 decades? There is not going to be an imposed democratic governance in Afghanistan and they are not going to adopt American cultural and social mores; time to get over that bullshit.]
“This is the immediate, practical reality that our policy review discovered,” the person familiar with the deliberations said. “If we break the May 1st deadline negotiated by the previous administration with no clear plan to exit, we will be back at war with the Taliban, and that was not something President Biden believed was in the national interest.”
“We’re going to zero troops by September.”
The decision highlights the tradeoffs the Biden administration is willing to make to shift the U.S. global focus away from the counterinsurgency campaigns that dominated the post-9/11 world to current priorities, including increasing military competition with China.
In addition to major domestic challenges, “the reality is that the United States has big strategic interests in the world,” the person said,“like non-proliferation, like an increasingly aggressive and assertive Russia, like North Korea and Iran, whose nuclear programs pose a threat to the United States,” as well as China. “The main threats to the American homeland are actually from other places: from Africa, from parts of the Middle East-- Syria and Yemen.”
“Afghanistan just does not rise to the level of those other threats at this point,” the person said. “That does not mean we’re turning away from Afghanistan. We are going to remain committed to the government, remain committed diplomatically. But in terms of where we will be investing force posture, our blood and treasure, we believe that other priorities merit that investment.”
Some officials have warned that a U.S. exit will lead to the collapse of the Kabul government while jeopardizing gains made over the last two decades in health, education and women’s rights.
Biden administration officials say the United States intends to remain closely involved in the peace process and will continue to provide humanitarian aid and assistance to the Afghan government and security forces, which remains almost totally dependent on foreign support.
“What we won’t do is use our troops as a bargaining chip in that process,” the person familiar with the plans said.
...The person familiar with the plans said the United States had gone to Afghanistan in 2001 “for a particular purpose: to deliver justice to those who attacked us on September 11th and to disrupt terrorists seeking to use Afghanistan as a safe haven to attack the United States. We achieved that objective some years ago.”
“For that reason the president made the determination... that the best path forward to advance American interests is ending this war after 20 years so we can address the global threat picture as it exists today,” the person added.
Biden, who argued unsuccessfully during the Obama administration for a small, counterterrorism-focused presence, had already hinted that the United States would remain for only a limited time beyond the May 1 deadline.
Late last month, he said he didn’t expect U.S. troops to be deployed there next year. “We will leave,” he said at a White House news conference. “But the question is when we leave.”
Administration officials were in the process of notifying officials in NATO nations as well as Afghan officials and the Taliban on Tuesday. In an early morning tweet, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani appeared still to be uninformed. He said he had spoken with Secretary of State Antony Blinken about “the ongoing peace process,” and about “an upcoming call” with Biden.
It was not immediately clear when NATO countries would withdraw troops but the person familiar with the plans suggested they would coordinate their withdrawals with the U.S. departure. Many of those governments have said they have no desire or ability to remain without the logistical, security and other support the U.S. forces provide.
Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin are in Brussels Tuesday and Wednesday informing their NATO counterparts. Germany has the second largest force in Afghanistan, numbering more than 1,000. Officials there have cautioned that they would need months to organize an orderly departure.
In early March, Blinken launched a last-ditch diplomatic effort to bring the Taliban and the Afghan government together to end the war with an interim power-sharing arrangement. He warned Ghani in a sharply-worded letter that time was growing short.
...The hope was to accelerate a negotiating process begun under President Donald Trump in 2019, when White House envoy Zalmay Khalilzad started talks with militant leaders in Doha, the capital of Qatar. That led to a February 2020 agreement signed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo under which the United States pledged to withdraw its forces by May 1, 2021, in exchange for Taliban severance of all ties with al-Qaeda, and agreement to begin negotiations with the Afghan government toward a cease-fire and peace accord.
While the inter-Afghan talks began in September, they have made little progress. At the same time, the Taliban has increased its attacks on Afghan troops and expanded its territorial control. As the new administration launched its review, the Pentagon and the United Nations reported that the militants had not complied with their commitments under the Trump agreement.
Many Afghan experts have concluded that the Taliban are moving closer to a military victory, but that they may be reluctant to take over as a pariah government, which could result in a loss of international support and aid for the country.
Biden’s choice was a stark one. With U.S. public opinion and a significant, bipartisan portion of Congress pressing for withdrawal, staying could lead to political difficulties at home and renewed Taliban attacks on U.S. forces. At the same time, an abrupt American departure could undermine any achievements made in the past two decades, reduce the possibility of a peace deal, and lead to a Taliban takeover.
NATO members, and some U.S. lawmakers [warmongers], warned against an early departure. Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in late February that a swift pullout would be “challenging” and “destabilizing.”
John Sopko, the Department of Defense’s special inspector for Afghanistan reconstruction, warned Congress last month that U.S. withdrawal without a peace agreement in place would be “a disaster,” and mean government collapse. Others have warned of civil war, as regional warlords have amassed and armed their own forces.
Blinken’s warning to Ghani, along with the interim government proposal, seemed to have little effect. He called for a conference of Taliban and Afghan leaders to take place in Turkey this month, and a U.N.-convened meeting of regional governments, including Iran, along with the United States, to push diplomacy.
So far, none of those initiatives have borne fruit. The meetings have been repeatedly postponed, and Khalilzad’s shuttle diplomacy among the Afghans and with regional leaders have yet to bring the two sides together in agreement.
The person familiar with the administration’s deliberations rejected the suggestion that these apparent failures precipitated Biden’s decision. The United States, the person said, would continue its diplomatic efforts to bring peace. But time had proven that the presence of U.S. troops, even at much higher levels, was not effective leverage at moving the parties beyond where they have been willing to go, he said.
Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI), one of the very few lawmakers who were informed Monday of Biden’s decision, tentatively supported the move, but said Congress would need a full accounting of plans to secure U.S. diplomats in Afghanistan and ensure that global extremists from al-Qaeda and the Islamic State are unable to gain renewed strength.
The person familiar with the plans said some U.S. counterterrorism assets would be repositioned outside of Afghanistan, and the United States would remain capable of striking extremist groups there.
Slotkin, a former CIA analyst who served in senior security positions under Presidents George W. Bush and Obama, said a Taliban takeover of the country was a “distinct possibility.” In that case, she said, the administration had to guarantee the Taliban live up to global standards before recognizing a government and lifting sanctions on them, and ensure that “they don’t, en masse, kick women out of school, and walk us back 20 years in human rights.”
But “I think we have to make decisions based on America’s strategic interests not anybody else’s,” Slotkin said. “While no one wants to feel like the investment we made there was for little or nothing, that doesn’t mean we get to stay there for another 20 years on a wing and a prayer that we can turn it into a viable, healthy state.”
Retired Gen. Colin Powell, former secretary of state and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staffs, said the decision to leave was overdue.
“I wouldn’t say enough is enough,” said Powell, who was in charge of Bush’s State Department during the 9/11 attacks and the beginning of the U.S. war in Afghanistan. “I’d say we’ve done all we can do...What are those troops being told they’re there for? It’s time to bring it to an end.”
The Soviet Union, which occupied Afghanistan for a decade until it abruptly withdrew in 1989, “did it the same way,” Powell said. “They got tired and they marched out and back home. How long did anybody remember that?
Alan Grayson (D-FL) is getting ready to announce a run for the Florida U.S. Senate seat occupied from warmonger Marco Rubio. "Sooner or later," Grayson told me this morning, "we’re just going to have to come to grips with the fact that even when we have a legitimate gripe against a particular ruling party in a foreign country, conducting a neo-colonial military occupation of that country for 20 years is not a reasonable or effective or honorable way to deal with that. You can’t call yourself a beacon of freedom when you deny that freedom to others. And more generally, we definitely have to get past the notion that every time we see something that we don’t like, we bomb it." Grayson worked assiduously while he was in Congress, to end the war.
Ted Lieu (D-CA) has also been active in trying to get the U.S. out of Afghanistan. This morning he told me that "The U.S. has been fighting the endless war in Afghanistan for nearly 20 years. There are troops who have enlisted who were not even born when the war started. If the U.S. cannot win in 20 years, it won’t win staying another 20 years. Our military is the best in the world, but it is not designed to prop up governments or change hearts and minds of a foreign population. Unfortunately this is a lesson America keeps having to relearn. Pleased that President Biden is withdrawing our military from Afghanistan."
Shervin Aazami is running for the congressional seat held by warmonger Brad Sherman in the San Fernando Valley. This morning he told me that he's "very concerned about the extension of U.S. military forces in Afghanistan behind the May 1 deadline. The American public is sick and tired of our endless foreign wars. We've been in Afghanistan for nearly 20 years-- wasting trillions of dollars, costing the lives of thousands of American troops, and displacing millions of Afghani citizens. What is the reasoning behind the extension until September? What exactly does the Biden Administration hope to achieve in 4 months that wasn't achieved over the past two decades? Every day our troops remain in Afghanistan beyond the May 1 deadline is a threat to their lives and our Allies. Our military-industrial complex does not keep us safer-- it imperils the world and drains necessary resources to guarantee healthcare, housing, and infrastructure back at home."
If you've been following Jason Call's congressional campaign, it won't surprise you to know he has a perspective on this much like the one you just read from Shervin. "In two weeks and after nearly two decades," he told me today, "the United States would finally leave Afghanistan and end a war that has claimed the lives of thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Afghans. That is if the Biden administration held up the deal negotiated with the Taliban last year and comes almost a decade after Biden said 'We will leave in 2014.' Instead, Biden has unilaterally decided to delay withdrawal for another four months, prolonging a conflict that has brutally devastated a nation already beleaguered by centuries-long rolling imperialist conquests. As the 'Afghanistan Papers' revealed, America’s presence in the country has been fraught with eye-popping corruption and stomach-turning disregard for innocent civilians. Nevertheless, my opponent and 20-year incumbent corporate Democrat Rick Larsen has voted against leaving Afghanistan at least three times all while gleefully approving every single bloated Pentagon budget proposed by both Trump and Bush. Our campaign does not take any corporate cash and certainly not from ghouls in the military-industrial complex where Larsen raises hundreds of thousands of dollars. I’m proud to be an anti-imperialist candidate and will push for the U.S. to end all of its wars overseas and drastically reduce the size of our military.
Muad Hrezi is a former Chris Murphy staffer and currently a progressive candidate for a Connecticut congressional seat held by corporate Dem, John Larson. He told reiterated that "We’ve been in Afghanistan for 20 years now. The war has been a disaster and we’ve wasted trillions of dollars that we could’ve invested back home. Thousands of lives, both American and Afghan, have been lost. As someone who’s seen my parent’s homeland devastated by war, I know the toll it takes. It’s time to bring our troops home and leave Afghanistan once and for all."
Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) said that "It's great to see President Biden following the lead of Progressives after we've long called to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. We must end forever wars around the world, reinvest in diplomacy, and facilitate lasting peace in the region. The next step is for Congress to finally end the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force and ensure that there are no more blank checks for war. Additionally, it is long overdue that we cut the bloated $740 billion Pentagon budget by at least 10% and invest that money into our communities."
While congressional hawks-- like Lindsey Graham-- are screaming about Biden's decisions withdraw troops, most Democrats are kissing up to Biden and ignoring-- or glossing over-- the May 1 deadline he is unilaterally ignoring. Elizabeth Warren, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, sent out this statement to her supporters: "I strongly support President Biden's commitment to withdraw all U.S. forces from Afghanistan. September 11, 2021 will mark nearly 20 years of our presence there and while our withdrawal comes years late, President Biden recognizes the reality that our continued presence there does not make the U.S. or the world safer. Year after year, military leaders told Congress and the American people that we were finally turning the corner in Afghanistan, but ultimately we were only turning in a vicious circle. For nearly 20 years, we have adopted a costly war-based approach to national security and counterterrorism policy with no clear endgame. This strategy has damaged the United States' reputation worldwide, undermined our security, devastated the Middle East, and cost the lives of thousands of servicemembers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans. It's time to bring our troops home."
Even CODEPINK is giving Biden the benefit of the doubt-- when they shouldn't be. Their statement (in part): "CODEPINK applauds the news that President Biden’s will announce on Wednesday, April 14, 2021, that he will withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan on or before September 11, 2021. While long overdue-- the September 11, 2021 deadline is months past the May 1st, 2021 deadline set by the Trump Administration-- this development is a positive contribution to peace. We are hopeful that the tide is finally turning away from the forever wars that have devastated millions around the world. We commend President Biden for making this decision, but also recognize that it is the result of continued grassroots pressure and strong public opinion supporting an end to the forever wars. We encourage Biden to make this move more meaningful by reversing course on his proposal to increase the obscenely bloated Pentagon budget by $13 billion."
This afternoon, right after what I took as disheartening news about Afghanistan, the NY Times reported that Biden's Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III is reversing Trump's pledge to withdraw troops stationed in Germany and is, instead, sending more U.S. troops. That's part of a dangerous "I dare you" game Biden is playing with Putin.