Learning From Past Mistakes: U.S. Withdrawing Troops From Afghanistan

The 20th anniversary of the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks is drawing near and The Washington Post reported that U.S. President Joe Biden, has promised that by September 9, 2021, all U.S. troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan.

Through a public speech made in the White House, President Biden said, “We cannot continue the cycle of extending or expanding our military presence in Afghanistan, hoping to create ideal conditions for the withdrawal, and expecting a different result.” The rest of his speech comprised of the achievements of the U.S. in responding to the “war on terror” and that it is “time for American troops to come home.” Although this withdrawal gives a positive outlook on the future of peaceful resolutions, it came a little too late, and we could only hope that the U.S. has learned from prolonged military interventions.

Through a series of military approaches after 9/11, the U.S. made a quick response to counteract the attack. The Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) website outlines their operations and deployment of officers to Afghanistan in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and within 3 months, they defeated the Taliban. The Bush administration fought the “war on terror” with military might in the Middle East and won the fight. However, the Taliban still resurged. How?

Due to ongoing military presence and involvement in the Middle East, the BBC reported rising anti-Western sentiments across Afghanistan and other parts of the region. Ongoing wars, most significantly the Iraq War, led to thousands of civilian deaths and displacement of millions of people, leading to grievances and deprivation which then became the motivation for some people to join terrorist organizations such as the Taliban. Furthermore, an article from the German Media, Deutsche Welle (DW) reported how social problems such as women’s security and position in society are also at risk when American troops withdraw as the U.S. was also involved in their empowerment.

The United States military intervention created a cycle of violence, that failed to properly address the root causes and risk factors of growing radicalization in the Middle East. The political instability and socioeconomic causes present in Afghanistan were not addressed as proportionally as they could have been compared to the militaristic approach of the U.S. government.

Now, the United States is leaving Afghanistan as they found it. There is escalating violence from the Taliban and more people are fearing for their lives. Reading back to President Biden’s speech, it is encouraging that the U.S. is finally recognizing this cycle of violence and that if they continue with the military approach, the goal of achieving peace will not be met. Now, we anticipate that they have learned from their past mistakes and that the withdrawal of U.S. troops is the start of more peaceful, less offensive solutions to counterterrorism efforts. We need to see more reforms such as the achievement of empowering women in Afghan society. In this way, there is the hope of de-escalating the violence through non-violent countermeasures and allows space to address underlying factors that are causing the violence in the first place.