[guest post by Dana]
President Biden is scheduled to make the announcement Wednesday:
President Joe Biden intends to withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that started the decades-long conflict, congressional officials confirmed Tuesday.
..Biden had faced a deadline set by the previous administration of removing all U.S. military forces from the country by May 1, but publicly admitted meeting that deadline was unlikely.
Still, White House officials have said Biden remained committed to ending the ongoing U.S. military presence there. In March, during a press conference, Biden said he did not see a scenario where U.S. troops were still in Afghanistan in 2022.
Contradicting the Defense Department’s claim that 2,500 U.S. troops are in Afghanistan, the New York Times released a report two months ago claiming that the actual number is closer to 3,500.
Clearly, the withdrawal of American troops will be problematic for Afghanistan:
In March, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction warned in congressional testimony that despite billions spent on fortifying local security forces in the war-torn Asian country, “Afghan security forces are nowhere near achieving self-sufficiency, as they cannot maintain their equipment, manage their supply chains or train new soldiers, pilots and policemen.”
Officials also noted that there is little evidence in recent months that the Taliban fighters are prepared to lay down their arms and take up diplomatic posts with the new government, which was supposed to be a key part of the peace deal and May 1 withdrawal.
Mitch McConnell harshly criticized the decision, saying from the Senate floor:
Precipitously withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan is a grave mistake. It is a retreat in the face of an enemy that has not yet been vanquished and abdication of American leadership.
Other Republicans echoed his criticism:
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called it a “disaster in the making” and “dumber than dirt and devilishly dangerous.”
Sen. James Inhofe (Okla.), the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, told reporters that the decision was “outrageous.”
“You know, we’re talking about making a political decision on something where there isn’t any justification,” he said. “It should be conditions-based. … It’s the wrong thing.”
House Republicans were similarly incensed, with Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Rep. Michael McCaul (Texas) saying the withdrawal plan “shows a complete disregard for the realities on the ground, and will not only put Afghans at risk, but endanger the lives of U.S. citizens at home and abroad.”
Rep. Liz Cheney expressed similar criticism:
Wars don’t end when one side abandons the fight.
Withdrawing our forces from Afghanistan by September 11 will only embolden the very jihadists who attacked our homeland on that day twenty years ago. By declaring that this withdrawal is not based on conditions on the ground, the Biden Administration is sending a dangerous signal that the United States fundamentally does not understand—or is willfully ignorant of—the terrorist threat.
President Biden’s decision hands the Taliban and al Qaeda a propaganda victory, abandons our global leadership position, and plays into our adversaries’ hands. As we saw with President Obama’s reckless decision to pull troops out of Iraq in 2011, retreat does not end the fight against terrorism. It merely gives our enemies more room to reconstitute and plot attacks against the homeland.
Breaking ranks, however, was Rep. Peter Meijer from Michigan. Meijer is an Army veteran who was deployed to Iraq and also worked as a civilian conflict analyst in Afghanistan. He applauded the Biden administration for the decision to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan:
Good. Will work with my colleagues to make sure this withdrawal is responsibly executed, but this is an encouraging move to capitalize on bipartisan efforts to take our wars off autopilot. https://t.co/8XPJtMZeYd
— Rep. Peter Meijer (@RepMeijer) April 13, 2021
Additionally, Concerned Veterans for America released a statement, saying:
While we still believe a full withdrawal by the May 1st deadline in the Doha agreement best serves America’s interests, we are pleased to hear President Biden is firmly committed to bringing our troops home within the next few months. America has more pressing priorities at home and elsewhere, and President Biden must keep his promise to end our endless war in Afghanistan.
Since the war in Afghanistan began in 2001, an estimated 2,300 American troops have died.