The United States decided some time ago to abandon the conflict, which officially began in 2001 and became the longest in American history.
President Joe Biden’s administration faces what is today considered a political stain of huge significance: a foreign policy disaster created by decisions made about domestic policy.
The United States decided some time ago to abandon the war in Afghanistan, officially launched in October 2001 and the longest in American history, costing 2,300 lives and injuring 20,000 U.S. Army soldiers, as well as the lives of more than 3,000 contractors and 66,000 Afghan citizens, at a cost of around $1 trillion, practically ensuring that the result was leaving the Taliban in power.
The images of helicopters evacuating diplomatic staff from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul to the nearby airport were reminiscent of another withdrawal under similar conditions: Saigon, Vietnam, on April 30, 1975. Just like what happened with the South Vietnamese then, the collapse of America’s Afghan allies was quick.
Less than two months ago, President Biden said that despite the withdrawal of troops, “the likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely.”
But the speed with which the Taliban advanced appeared to be as much a product of the weakness of the U.S.-protected government as the arrangements made with the countless tribes that form part of the Afghan mosaic.
The Taliban were in power in Afghanistan on Oct. 7, 2001, when the George W. Bush administration declared war after the Taliban refused to hand over Osama bin Laden and other leaders of al-Qaida responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks on the twin towers and the Pentagon that left some 3,000 dead. The Taliban thus fulfilled an Islamic obligation, but in December of that year, the Taliban government was removed from power after the U.S. and its allies launched a campaign of intense U.S. aerial bombardment and military support for opposition groups. Bin Laden was killed in 2011 at his house in Abbottabad, Pakistan, during an American raid conducted for that purpose.
By then, the U.S. government knew that the war in Afghanistan had exceeded its mission, but President Barack Obama, with Biden as his vice president, dd not want the political stain of leaving the country without a functional government supported by the United States.
The fact is that, after almost 20 years since the declaration of war, which initiated the military intervention in Afghanistan and later in Iraq, the United States has finally abandoned an untenable situation.
The war began as a response to domestic problems, to satisfy a mob that demanded revenge after the 9/11 attacks, but systemic inertia prolonged it beyond what was necessary.
President Donald Trump publicly made the decision to withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan , but President Biden will pay the political price.