In the final stretch of his presidency, Trump has ordered plans to be carried out to withdraw United States military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan, making good on previous promises to do so. According to Al Jazeera, the United States will still have a presence of 2500 personnel in both countries when he retires, meaning that the incoming Biden administration will have to decide what to do next. Biden has previously said he supported a drawdown in both countries. However, he cautioned that a complete removal disregarding the geopolitical consequences of leaving quickly could be worse for all the parties involved, given the on-going terror threats that remain.
Politically, this move by Trump has been roundly criticised in media outlets and even by people in his own party. Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth, herself a veteran of the Iraq War, criticised the withdrawals claiming that troops could be in “body bags” if there was a total withdrawal in a quick manner, despite not clarifying why that could be a possibility. Fellow Republican and leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell commented that these moves would “be reminiscent of the humiliating American departure from Saigon in 1975… we’d be abandoning our partners.”
Despite the ideological absence between Vietnam and the two on-going conflicts, McConnell is wrong to compare them in this way as their lengths and enormous costs should mean that any actions to leave should be welcomed. Criticisms aimed at Trump’s decision should be instead how can the United States NOT afford to leave quicker, given that the Afghanistan War alone has cost around one trillion dollars and numerous causalities on all sides totalling about 100,000. Forgetting the original ‘reasons’ for toppling Saddam Hussein and overthrowing the Taliban controlled Afghanistan government (in order to find the perpetrators of 9/11, Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden), the politicians should be reflecting upon the massive unpopularity of the endless wars and questioning whether the vague ‘objectives’ warrant anymore effort spent with fighting instead of dialogue.
Although recent efforts to negotiate with the Taliban have faltered in Afghanistan, the United States should seriously consider the impacts of their presence in the Middle East for peace and the conditions of their own country given the fruitlessness that bears comparisons to the futile Vietnam War. Given the crises of health and infrastructure at home, it has never been a better time to focus on America’s true national security, the people suffering at home from debts and addictions of all kinds, instead of sinking treasure in places that will only bankrupt the nation.
While it is easy to criticise Trump in a variety of ways for his fake popularism, as this decision does not close the door to future costly interventions without proper causes, this move and some others in his foreign policy sphere should be at least followed up in the future to prevent future conflicts. Biden has said he was against prolonged involvement in any of these places, so he and his supporters should at least try to ask how the world can not afford to consider all options toward peace in putting an end to nearly twenty years of misadventures that achieved their ‘goals’ nearly a decade ago.
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