By Spy Uganda Correspondent
USA: President Joe Biden has formally announced his decision to end America’s longest war on Wednesday, deeming the prolonged and intractable conflict in Afghanistan no longer aligned with American priorities.
Biden said he would withdraw US troops from Afghanistan before September 11, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon that launched the war in the first place.
“War in Afghanistan was never meant to be a multigenerational undertaking,” Biden said during his remarks from the White House Treaty Room, the same location from which President George W. Bush had announced the war was beginning in October 2001.
“We were attacked. We went to war with clear goals. We achieved those objectives, Bin Laden is dead and al Qaeda is degraded in Afghanistan and it’s time to end the forever war.”
It was a decisive moment for a President not yet 100 days into the job. Biden has spent months weighing his decision, and he determined a war in Afghanistan that has killed some 2,300 US troops and cost more than $2 trillion no longer fit within the pressing foreign policy concerns of 2021.
“We cannot continue the cycle of extending or expanding our military presence in Afghanistan hoping to create the ideal conditions for our withdrawal, expecting a different result, I am now the fourth American president to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan. Two Republicans. Two Democrats,” he went on. “I will not pass this responsibility to a fifth,” Biden added.
Biden said the withdrawal will begin on May 1, in line with an agreement President Donald Trump’s administration made with the Taliban. Some US troops will remain to protect American diplomats, though officials have declined to provide a precise number.
Biden said American diplomatic and humanitarian efforts would continue in Afghanistan and that the US would support peace efforts between the Afghan government and the Taliban. But he was unequivocal that two decades after it began, the Afghanistan War is ending.
“It is time to end America’s longest war. It is time for American troops to come home,” he said in his speech.
Afterward, as he was visiting the section of Arlington National Cemetery where war dead from Afghanistan is buried, Biden was asked whether his decision had been hard to make.
“No, it wasn’t,” he said. “To me, it was absolutely clear.”
Both of Biden’s most recent predecessors sought to end the war in Afghanistan, only to be drawn back in by devolving security and attempts to prop up the government. Biden made a different calculation that the US and the world must simply move on.
“After nearly two decades of putting our troops in harm’s way, it is time to recognize that we have accomplished all that we can militarily and that it’s time to bring our remaining troops home, we went to Afghanistan because of a horrific attack that happened 20 years ago, that cannot explain why we should remain there in 2021, rather than return to war with the Taliban, we have to focus on the challenges that are in front of us.”
Meanwhile, as Biden was making his decision, the prospect of the Taliban returning to power and potentially rolling back gains on security, democracy, and women’s rights provided a stark counterargument to an immediate US withdrawal
According to an annual US intelligence community’s assessment released Tuesday on the outlook for Afghanistan, prospects for a peace deal between the Taliban and the Afghan government “remain low during the next year.”
“The Taliban is likely to make gains on the battlefield, and the Afghan Government will struggle to hold the Taliban at bay if the coalition withdraws support,” the assessment said.
On Wednesday, Biden offered his rebuttal to the “many who will loudly insist that diplomacy cannot succeed without a robust US military presence to stand as leverage.”
“We gave that argument a decade. It’s never proved effective. Not when we had 98,000 troops in Afghanistan, and not when we’re down to a few thousand, our diplomacy does not hinge on having boots in harm’s way, US boots on the ground. We have to change that thinking. American troops shouldn’t be used as a bargaining chip between warring parties in other countries.” Biden said.
However, the Taliban believe victory is theirs, ”we have won the war and America has lost, We are ready for anything, We are totally prepared for peace, and we are fully prepared for jihad.” Haji Hekmat one of the commanders proclaims