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The Twilight of Afghanistan

Jacob Houston

On April 13th 2021, President Joe Biden of the United States of America, announced the withdrawal of all military troops and personnel from Afghanistan by September 11th. The Afghanistan War, the gruesome struggle that had cost many lives, had finally come to an abrupt ending after two decades. A senior Biden administration official stated, “This is not conditions-based. The president has judged that a conditions-based approach . . . is a recipe for staying in Afghanistan forever. He has reached the conclusion that the United States will complete its drawdown and will remove its forces from Afghanistan before September 11th.”

Afghanistan has caused the notorious ‘Vietnam Syndrome’ to surface once more. The Vietnam War, a bloody war that lasted from 1965 to 1975, ended with a sudden withdrawal by US forces, effectively allowing North Vietnam and the Viet Cong to completely invade South Vietnam, unifying both. From many points of view, parallels can be drawn between the Vietnam War and the Afghanistan War.

The idea of leaving Afghanistan, however, dates back to before the Biden administration. The Trump administration had negotiated with the Taliban for the withdrawal of all US forces from Afghanistan late last year. When the Biden administration arrived in office, they continued the policy the Trump administration had put in place, announcing that the US would withdraw from Afghanistan.

The US withdrawal, in certain ways, is completely warranted in terms of success. The main goal in the whole invasion of Afghanistan was to assassinate Osama Bin Laden (mastermind behind 9/11 attacks), which was accomplished. Logically, there is no reason why US taxpayers put more than two trillion dollars into the twenty year war, as Bin Laden was killed in 2011, more than ten years after the invasion began. However, the Taliban (the insurgent group that has resisted the US presence in Afghanistan for the entirety of the war) is still, and has been for twenty years, a threat to US international security in Afghanistan. That was, according to former president Barack Obama on April 22nd, the reason why “We didn’t pull out of Afghanistan sooner.”

In a hypothetical situation where the US withdrawal goes well, the Taliban is resisted not by the US, but by the Afghan people, which is the main issue as to why the Taliban were able to take over the majority of Afghanistan in less than a month.

The United States has never been an occupying power (one can see this in Japan and South Korea), and is known to leave military bases in certain countries, but not actively participate in governmental or domestic affairs. However, in Afghanistan, the United States set up a government ripe with corruption and despised by the Afghan people. Evidence of such was uncovered when an investigation by the Central Intelligence Agency in late 2019 found that Afghanistan’s largest bank was a cesspool of fraud. The president stated on August 17th, “American troops cannot and should not be fighting in a war and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves”.

According to the information given beforehand, the reason as to why is evident: corruption. The US, if it had been more meticulous and diligent in governmental and domestic affairs, may have made the withdrawal easier on itself and the Afghan people.

The withdrawal has also brought a large rift between the US and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) coalition forces. The horrible failure of coordination between the US and its allies in terms of the withdrawal from Afghanistan has been a failure in foreign and economic policy, and has hurt the credibility of the United States in the eyes of its allies. As the United States focuses itself on East and Southeast Asia (mainly China), it may not have the increasing support from NATO and its other allies, as they become increasingly distant. Former UK prime minister Theresa May issued a harrowing statement August 21st that left the entire House of Commons in Parliament in silence: ‘Was our intelligence really so poor? Was our understanding of the Afghan government so weak? Was our knowledge of the position on the ground so inadequate? Did we really believe that, or did we just feel that we had to follow the United States and hope that, on a wing and a prayer, it would be all right on the night?’

Image Source: Pinterest, "Sunset, Kabul-Afghanistan" by Süleyman Gündüz


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