On April 14th 2021, President Joe Biden announced his plan to have all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by September 11, 2021 to end what he called the “Forever War.” NATO quickly followed suit, agreeing to begin withdrawal May 2021 to hopefully be completed by September 2021. As reported by the Washington Post, the United States currently has 2,500 troops in Afghanistan with additional aid of 7,000 NATO troops. The second largest contingent of troops is from Germany, with around 1,300 soldiers in Afghanistan. While President Trump originally planned to remove all troops by May 1st, Biden pushed this deadline back in order to leave the country in a state of peace.
When officially announcing this plan during a briefing last Wednesday, President Biden stated “We will not conduct a hasty rush to the exit. We’ll do it — we’ll do it responsibly, deliberately, and safely. And we will do it in full coordination with our allies and partners, who now have more forces in Afghanistan than we do.” That being said, Biden has been firm on his zero troop stance and there has been pushback from some members of Congress. Republican Senator Mitch McConnell says he believes the plan 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.” While Biden does have a lot of support in the U.S. and worldwide, Politico has also reported on possible unease from NATO members that Biden’s plan is too hasty.
President Biden’s decision is in direct contrast to the condition-based military strategy of the past two decades. The conditions-based approach is how the United States and NATO has operated within Afghanistan in order to try to fix the government and to maintain peace within the country. The Biden White House claims continuing with this approach would keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan indefinitely as the country heavily relies on the United States for aid and military support to ensure a stable government. Ending the conditions-based presence and removing all U.S. and NATO troops from Afghanistan could leave the already unstable country in a more vulnerable position.
According to the New York Times, President Biden has been very straightforward in his decision to remove all troops from Afghanistan and he has been against increased troop presence in Afghanistan since his time as Vice President. While continued presence in Afghanistan has put the U.S. government and military in a stagnant and subpar position, there is worry of Kabul falling to the Taliban and civil war breaking out after the removal of U.S. and NATO troops. Therefore, before pulling all troops out of Afghanistan, a strong contingency plan needs to be put in place to continue to support the country against civil unrest.
The United States presence in Afghanistan began in response to the 9/11 terrorist attack, making it “America’s Longest War”. According to Brown University, this war has cost the U.S. more than $2.26 trillion and resulted in the death of over 2,400 U.S. troops. The Wall Street Journal reported that a conditional peace deal was signed between the U.S. and the Taliban in February of 2020 to try and stop fighting within the country. Unfortunately, this peace deal stalled as the Taliban waited to see what a new U.S. presidential administration would bring. Discussions of U.S. troop removal have been ongoing for years. While President Obama was in office he stated he would begin removing troops from Afghanistan in July 2011. But, he did not set a deadline for all troops to be removed. This has resulted in the United States being in the same predicament 10 years later in 2021, as now President Biden calls for the removal of all troops.
While there is grave concern over the removal of all U.S. and NATO troops from Afghanistan, President Biden is firm in his decision for zero troops and an end to a condition-based presence. While making headway in ending the longest U.S. war is crucial, experts are concerned about the haste of Biden’s call for troops to come home. By removing these troops, the U.S. backed government in Kabul has a good chance of falling to the Taliban, leaving Afghans in a dangerous situation. It is necessary for the United States to have a strong plan in place to support the country through peace treaties, aid and humanitarian support as removing these troops could result in a debilitating setback for the country’s democracy.