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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 4/18/21

U.S. Joins Past Empires in Afghan Graveyard

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Coalition helps Afghan police secure high ground [Image 8 of 23]
Coalition helps Afghan police secure high ground [Image 8 of 23]
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An Afghan taxi-driver in Vancouver told one of us a decade ago that this day would come. "We defeated the Persian Empire in the eighteenth century, the British in the nineteenth, the Soviets in the twentieth. Now, with NATO, we're fighting twenty-eight countries, but we'll defeat them, too," said the taxi-driver, surely not a member of the Taliban, but quietly proud of his country's empire-killing credentials.

Now, after nearly twenty years of a war that has been as bloody and futile as all those previous invasions and occupations, the last 3,500 U.S. troops and their NATO brothers-in-arms will be coming home from Afghanistan.

President Joe Biden tried to spin this as the United States leaving because it has achieved its objectives, bringing the terrorists responsible for 9/11 to justice and ensuring that Afghanistan would not be used as a base for a future attack on the United States. "We achieved those objectives," Biden said. "Bin Laden is dead and Al Qaeda is degraded. It's time to end the forever war."

What Biden did not admit is that the United States and its allies, with all their money and firepower, were unable to vanquish the Taliban who currently control about half of Afghanistan and are positioned to control even more in the coming months without a ceasefire. Nor did Biden admit that, in two decades, the United States and its allies have been unable to build up a stable, democratic, popular government or a competent military in the country.

Like the U.S.S.R., the U.S. is leaving in defeat, having squandered the lives of countless Afghans, 2,488 U.S. troops and personnel, and trillions of dollars.

A U.S. withdrawal especially one not based on conditions on the ground is, nevertheless, a bold move for Biden. He is going against the advice of the U.S. intelligence community and top Pentagon officials including the head of the U.S.-Afghan Forces and the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Biden is also coming under attack from Republicans and Democrats in Congress. Senator Mitch McConnell artfully slammed Biden's decision, accusing him of helping U.S. enemies "ring in the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks by gift-wrapping the country and handing it right back to them." Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said the withdrawal "undermines our commitment to the Afghan people, particularly Afghan women."

But while Biden is being pilloried by some for pulling out too soon, the truth is that he is violating a May 1 deadline for U.S. troop withdrawal that was painstakingly negotiated under the Trump Administration.

Ironically, Biden acknowledged in his speech on Wednesday that the withdrawal agreement the United States signed with the Taliban in February 2020 was a solemn commitment, but then he said U.S. forces would begin their withdrawal on May 1 and complete it by September 11, which is not what was agreed to.

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Medea Benjamin is the cofounder of Global Exchange and CODEPINK: Women for Peace and author of Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the US-Saudi Connection. 

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