President Biden announced this week that he will order all US troops withdrawn from Afghanistan by September 11, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. This is being greeted with mixed responses.
On the one hand, President Trump campaigned on putting a stop to “endless foreign wars,” and he had actually set an even earlier deadline of May 2021 for removing all troops from Afghanistan. Many Republican Senators criticized that decision, and give them credit for consistency, they also blasted Biden’s decision to do the same thing, calling it reckless, irresponsible, dangerous, an abdication of American leadership in the region, and “a disaster in the making” (Lindsay Graham), because it signals a retreat from a fight with terrorists that hasn’t been won yet.
On the other hand, many Americans are tired of sending our sons and daughters to risk their lives and limbs, trying to keep peace in an area where there’s never been any, and where we’ve already expended vast amounts of blood and treasure for two decades in a place that many of them don’t deem worth the cost. I’m certainly sympathetic to that view. At least Trump took off the Obama-era “rules of engagement” handcuffs that made them sitting ducks, but it was still a very dangerous mission with no clear end game.
But on the third hand (this issue is so convoluted, it has more than two hands), other critics argue that a complete pull-out risks the advances we’ve made and creates a vacuum that will quickly fill with a return of terrorism. Remember how Obama pulled all the troops out of Iraq for a 2012 election talking point, only to see the rise of ISIS and the need for far greater military intervention? I believe Joe Biden was there at the time and should remember that.
If Biden keeps that deadline, he has less than four months to make sure local officials and other allies are able to keep Afghanistan from spiraling back into its Taliban-run, terrorism-exporting past. I wish I could say I had more confidence in his competence to make that happen.
It doesn’t help that in making the announcement, he committed a massive unforced error. By announcing that the pullout would come on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, he gave the Taliban and ISIS a huge propaganda win. They’ll trumpet this as America surrendering and retreating on the anniversary of the day they struck their fatal blow against us. That date is already a major flashpoint for attacks in the Middle East (did anyone seriously believe that the date of the Benghazi attack – September 11, 2012 – was a coincidence?) Choosing it as a date for our troop pullout is like sponsoring a pep rally and recruitment drive for ISIS.
Randy DeSoto at Western Journal has more on the dangerous ramifications of Biden’s badly-timed retreat.