On April 14th, current U.S. President Joe Biden officially announced his plans to remove the remaining 2,500 U.S. troops that remain in Afghanistan by September 11th, the anniversary of the 2001 World Trade Centre attack.
“We cannot continue the cycle of extending or expanding our military presence in Afghanistan hoping to create ideal conditions for withdrawal and expecting a different result,” President Biden explained. His decision comes after a three-month-long Afghanistan policy review, in which he concluded that a “persistent military footprint” is no longer necessary.
The U.S is coordinating these efforts with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which has also committed to removing its troops from Afghanistan. Citing that there is “no military solution to the challenges Afghanistan faces,” the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan is expected to commence on May 1st.
Of course, this decision was not absent of substantial concerns. Critics explained that this abrupt departure may unravel significant progress towards democracy and gender equality made over the past few decades. The top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, said that not leaving a residual force behind — an idea Biden had supported as a presidential candidate — would “put Afghans at risk” and “endanger the lives of U.S. citizens at home and abroad.” Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina also expressed his opposition, suggesting that this decision will open doors for “another 9/11.” It was also reported by the Biden administration that “any Taliban attacks on Allied troops during this withdrawal will be met with a forceful response,” indicating further possible violent military confrontation.
Nevertheless, both the current U.S. government and NATO ensure the international community that this decision does not signal the abandonment of its conflict with the Taliban. Instead, both parties cited their continued commitment to promoting peaceful diplomacy and power-sharing. A senior official of the current U.S. administration stated earlier this week that President Biden’s administration will put the “full weight of our government behind diplomatic efforts to reach a peace agreement between the Taliban and the Afghan government.” In response, Ashar Ghani, the Afghan President, Tweeted his support for the U.S.’s decision and for a “smooth transition.”
The severity of this military conflict that has brutalized citizens for almost twenty years signals the need to focus on mitigating the dire humanitarian consequences. In favour of more peaceful relations, Biden states: “I am now the fourth United States president to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan. Two Republicans. Two Democrats. I will not pass this responsibility to a fifth.”
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