A Withdrawal Even More Humiliating than Vietnam

Today is the deadline for U.S. and Western troops to leave Afghanistan. After the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. attacked and occupied Afghanistan under the premise of an international war on terror, toppling the Taliban regime that it accused of cooperating with al-Qaida. Yet the presence of U.S. and NATO forces in this war-torn country over the last 20 years has achieved nothing except an increase in insecurity, poverty, drug production and smuggling, and the spread of terrorism. As the Taliban now retake power, Joe Biden, with no other choice and with nothing to show for it, has put an end to the occupation that resulted in an even greater failure than the Vietnam War.

In February 2020, the Trump administration and the Taliban signed an agreement in Doha, the capital of Qatar, which stipulated that Washington would gradually withdraw its forces from Afghanistan in order to aid the peace process in the country. When Biden entered office, given his own insistence on ending the U.S.’ forever wars and facing fundamental shifts in Afghanistan, including the advance of the Taliban, he announced the new date of Aug. 31 as the final deadline for the withdrawal of U.S. forces. A number of U.S. officials and politicians, as well as high-ranking Afghan officials, warned that this withdrawal would create a power vacuum in Afghanistan, and that the Taliban would take advantage of this opportunity to expand its war in Afghanistan. Later events, in particular the quick advance of the Taliban, the unpredictable collapse of the Afghan military and central government and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s flight from the country, all leading up to the taking of Kabul, proved these warnings correct.

The Taliban’s dominance over Afghanistan marks the end of 20 years of the U.S. and its Western allies’ attempts to “rebuild Afghanistan as a modern democracy.” Many American observers, officials and politicians have compared the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan to the disgraceful U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam in 1975, with some calling it even worse. Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader and head of the Republican Party in the chamber, called the decision to withdraw from Afghanistan a “horrible policy decision,” condemning the decision and criticizing the Biden administration by saying that “This is … much worse than Saigon. After we left Saigon, there weren’t Vietnamese terrorists who were planning on attacking us here at home. … You know, just because we decided to quit fighting doesn’t mean the terrorists go away. So they’re still out there. They’re invigorated. They’re emboldened and excited about the success they see in bringing America to its knees in Afghanistan.”

On the domestic front, Republicans are demanding that Biden resign because of his handling of the Afghanistan withdrawal. The results of this useless war in Afghanistan have brought into question the U.S.’ entire approach to the war on terror, which the U.S. used as an excuse to attack Afghanistan in 2001. Biden claims that the goal of 20 years of occupation in Afghanistan was to fight terrorism. By this measure, the success of Washington’s mission in Afghanistan has been brought under question even by the U.S. Army’s highest official. Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said that the Taliban’s swift taking of Afghanistan could soon lead to a notable increase of terrorist threats in the region.

So after 20 years of occupation, several trillion dollars spent and hundreds of thousands killed, the U.S. is leaving Afghanistan with nothing to show for it, not even a decrease in terrorist activity. Despite these criticisms, Biden has insisted that his decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and put an end to the forever wars that the U.S. has engaged in for the last 20 years was the correct one. But Republicans sharply disagree with Biden’s perspective. In truth, the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan was no honorable retreat, but rather an embarrassing evacuation. U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan has said that after Aug. 31, the U.S. will not even have a diplomatic presence in Afghanistan. So, the U.S. is ending not only its military presence, but its diplomatic presence in Afghanistan as well.

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