Rabu, 14 April 2021

Biden says ‘time to end’ US war in Afghanistan with total pullout - The Australian

US President Joe Biden speaks from the Treaty Room in the White House about the withdrawal of the remainder of US troops from Afghanistan. Picture: AFP
US President Joe Biden speaks from the Treaty Room in the White House about the withdrawal of the remainder of US troops from Afghanistan. Picture: AFP

High profile Republicans have slammed Joe Biden’s decision to unilaterally withdraw from Afghanistan as sowing the seeds of a longer, deeper conflict that will put American lives in jeopardy.

President Biden announced this morning (AEST) it was “time to end” America’s longest war with the unconditional withdrawal of troops from the country where they have spent two decades in a bloody, largely fruitless battle against the Taliban.

Dubbed the “forever war,” the US military onslaught in Afghanistan began in response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States.

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Now, 20 years later — after almost 2,400 US military and tens of thousands of Afghan deaths — Mr Biden named September 11 as the deadline by which the last US soldiers will have finally departed.

In a nationally televised address, the President said the United States had “accomplished” its limited original mission of crushing the international jihadist groups behind the 9/11 attacks and that with every passing year the rationale for staying was “increasingly unclear.” He insisted there would be no “hasty exit,” but he was adamant about his decision.

“A horrific attack 20 years ago … cannot explain why we should remain there in 2021,” he said. “It’s time to end the forever war.”

Speaking immediately after the President’s address, a “heartbroken” Senator Lindsay Graham said the Biden administration had chosen the “highest risk” option.

“I’m certain our military would have advised against a unilateral withdrawal,” he told reporters at the Capitol Building.

“The result of this decision today is to cancel the insurance policy that will prevent another 9/11,” he added.

Liz Cheney, daughter of former vice president Dick Chaney, said the decision was “reckless”.

“You don’t end wars by announcing you’re leaving,” she said. “Any decision should be based on conditions on the ground, and I suspect he’s ignoring the advice of military leaders on ground,” she added.

Minority Senate Leader Mitch McConnell said: “We’re to help our adversaries ring in the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks by gift wrapping the country, and handing it right back to them.”

The Biden administration on Tuesday revealed it would extend the May 1st deadline for withdrawing troops that the Trump administration had brokered in negotiations with Taliban forces in early 2020.

Former president Trump repeatedly indicated he would like to see all troops out of Afghanistan before last year’s presidential election, prompting criticism from some Republicans.

President Biden on Wednesday said the reasons for keeping troops in Afghanistan, twenty years after they arrived in the wake of the September 11 attacks on the twin towers, were “increasingly unclear”, given the threat of terrorism emanated from a broader range of countries, such as Somalia, Syria, Iraq and the Arabian peninsula.

“With the terror threat in many places keeping 1000s of troops in one country at cost of billions each year, makes little sense to me,” the president said.

Mr Biden told Americans that it was time to accept the reality that there was no alternative.

“We cannot continue the cycle of extending or expanding our military presence in Afghanistan hoping to create the ideal conditions for our withdrawal, expecting a different result,” he said.

“I am now the fourth American president to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan. Two Republicans. Two Democrats,” he added. “I will not pass this responsibility to a fifth.”

Illustration: Johannes Leak
Illustration: Johannes Leak

The bulk of Democrats and many Republicans support the decision.

Mike Pompeo, Donald Trump’s secretary of State, backed the president’s plan on Wednesday. “Their direction of travel is completely appropriate and the right thing to do, but tactics matter,” he said, speaking on television a little before the President’s formal withdrawal.

“The destruction of al Qa’ida has been accomplished. We spent nearly $25 billion a year helping Afghan government, helping it improve its capacity. It’s time the world demand the Afghan government get their act together,” he added.

Senator Graham pointed to conclusions of the bipartisan Afghan Study Group commissioned by Congress, which in February had warned total withdrawal could lead to a new terrorist threat within 18 months to three years after withdrawal.

“A complete US withdrawal without a peace agreement would allow [terrorist groups] to gradually rebuild their capabilities in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region such that they might be able to attack the U.S,” the final report concluded.

“We’ve gained this idea that the war is over, and Joe Biden ended the US’s longest war; with all due respect, Mr President, you’ve extended the war, not ended it,” Senator Graham said.

Ms Cheney said: “We saw the result of President Obama’s early withdrawal from Iraq, the establishment of the caliphate, ISIS, we could be headed down a similar path now”.

The White House said President Biden had phoned the Afghan president on Wednesday, stressing the US would continue to support the troubled country, “including through continued development, humanitarian, and security assistance”.

“President Biden and President Ghani reaffirmed their shared conviction that every effort should be made to achieve a political settlement so that the Afghan people can live in peace,” the White House said.

Afghan forces on their own

Afghan president Ashraf Ghani insisted Wednesday after a phone call with Mr Biden that his forces are “fully capable” of controlling the country.

And Mr Biden said that Washington will continue to support the Afghan government, only not “militarily,” according to the excerpts.

He also said the United States will “hold the Taliban accountable” on promises to keep international jihadists from setting up base in Afghanistan. Pakistan, which has close links to the Taliban, should “do more” to support Afghanistan.

But the US exit will mark a profound shift in clout for the beleaguered Kabul government and its US and coalition-trained security forces.

Mr Biden had earlier considered stationing a residual US force to strike at al-Qaeda or other international jihadist groups in Afghanistan or making withdrawal contingent on progress on the ground or in slow-moving peace talks.

In the end, all conditions were dropped and only guards for installations like the US embassy in Kabul will stay.

German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said Wednesday that NATO would likely join the United States in withdrawing its troops by September.

The Times newspaper said Britain would withdraw its roughly 750 troops, citing sources as saying “they would struggle without American support because of a reliance on US bases and infrastructure.”

Taliban ‘confident’

Mr Biden said the withdrawal would begin May 1 and US officials are warning the Taliban — who are observing a truce with US but not with Afghan forces — not to strike coalition forces as they leave.

“We will hit back hard,” a senior Biden administration official said. A threat assessment report published Tuesday by the director of US national intelligence said the Taliban “is confident it can achieve military victory.” But CIA Director William Burns said Wednesday that after “years of sustained counter-terrorism pressure” Afghan-based international jihadist groups are no longer a major threat to the United States itself.

Aside from the military landscape, the US exit will raise big questions over the future of attempts to modernise Afghanistan, especially for Afghan women who have benefited from increased rights, like access to education.

The Taliban, who enforce an austere brand of Sunni Islam, banned women from schools, offices, music and most of daily life during their 1996-2001 rule over much of Afghanistan. Two decades later, 40 per cent of schoolchildren are girls.

Peace effort in Turkey

Biden’s decision came as Turkey said it will host a US-backed peace conference from April 24 to May 4 that would bring together the Afghan government, the Taliban and international partners.

But Mohammad Naeem, spokesman for the Taliban office in Qatar, said the insurgents will not participate in any conference on Afghanistan’s future “until all foreign forces completely withdraw.” A decade ago, the United States had about 100,000 troops in Afghanistan. The troop figure by the end of Trump’s presidency had gone down to 2,500. As of February this year, NATO had around 10,000 troops in Afghanistan.

With AFP

Washington Correspondent


Adam Creighton is an award-winning journalist with a special interest in tax and financial policy. He was a Journalist in Residence at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business in 2019. He’s written ...

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2021-04-14 22:04:22Z

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