Should Biden Have Withdrawn from Afghanistan?

Written by: Sarah

Edited by: Joaquin

Visuals by: Allison

On April 13th, the official press of US President Joe Biden announced his intent to withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan by September 11 of this year. The decision comes after almost 20 years in Afghanistan, dating from the George W. Bush era. While this is certainly a monumental move, there have been both supporters and critics; the decision ultimately winds down to a single question: should Biden have withdrawn from Afghanistan?

Initial reaction in Washington was divided. In a statement on the Senate floor, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called the plan “reckless” and “a grave mistake. It is a retreat in the face of an enemy that has not yet been vanquished and abdication of American leadership.”’ With U.S. public opinion and Congress divided, staying could lead to political difficulties at home and renewed Taliban attacks on U.S. forces. But an abrupt American departure could undermine any achievements made in the past two decades, reduce the possibility of a peace deal and lead to a Taliban takeover. 

Furthermore, many believe that the Taliban are as strong as they have been since 2001. The Afghan state, backed by America and its NATO allies, is tottering. The decision to withdraw from Afghanistan was made against the advice of America’s generals, who had warned Biden (and Donald Trump before him) not to pull out.

President Biden thinks the costs of staying outweigh those of leaving, campaigning to promise to end America’s “forever wars”. Few Americans see the case for remaining part of a seemingly unwinnable conflict 7,000 miles away. However, American troop levels were already much reduced. No American soldier has died in combat in over a year. It costs little to keep a small force in place, guaranteeing the security of a larger number of NATO troops who have been training Afghan forces. With America gone, it seems that they will surely leave, too.’’

However, not all reactions were negative. While McConnell cited “broad political support” for an ongoing military presence in ­Afghanistan, other lawmakers called it the right decision. 

“There are no good, easy decisions here,” said Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. “Given the options, I think this is the best choice.” “We cannot impose a solution on Afghanistan,” Smith said in an interview. “I don’t doubt for a second there is going to continue to be violence and turbulence,” but the main transnational terrorist threat is now elsewhere. “We can only be in so many places. We have to make choices, and those choices are not easy. It’s not as if we didn’t put in the time in Afghanistan.”

Whether his decision was the right one or not, all agree that if President Biden insists on pulling out American troops, he should at least take steps to mitigate possible negative effects; some believe this should come in the form of an extended subsidization of Kabul, citing that the Soviet-backed state did not collapse immediately when Russian soldiers withdrew – it fell when the money ran out.

While the decision has polarized many, it is sure to be a historic move with implications that will impact us all.