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Politick: Afghanistan Exodus

August 31, 2021

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Reagan Eastlick

For the first time in a long time, there seems to be unity in America, but at what price?

When the United States entered Afghanistan 20 years ago, we did it together. Sept. 11 struck dumb the dissidents and party lines, leaving simply the unspoken promise to kill those who killed our own. We entered this war together, and our leaving may bring us together as well. Why? Not for some noble reason, but instead because of our president’s gross misinterpretation of what the Afghanistan war was.

Afghanistan was not an endless war; it was an occupation. Our mission, the American mission, should never have been construed as an introduction of democracy into the Middle East. Our objective was simple: punish terrorist groups for killing nearly 3,000 American citizens and prevent them from ever doing it again. That task cost hundreds of lives while we were establishing ourselves in Afghanistan – but once established, risk to U.S. soldiers greatly diminished. 

When Biden proposed to exit Afghanistan, he proposed we withdraw a 2,500 person skeleton force of American troops which, up until that point, were preventing a Taliban takeover. That number is tiny because gradual dissolution of troops had already begun under the Trump administration. The exodus was slow, measured, and contingent upon Taliban cooperation. The Biden approach was sudden, unregulated, and unconditional. 

Biden was given intelligence briefs which said, in no uncertain terms, that a swift withdrawal would add major instability to the region and prove disastrous to American interests. Biden ignored all warnings and withdrew quickly with no contingency plans. The result of his incompetence is the disaster seen today: American citizens and Afghan allies alike will be left behind, and the fault is entirely Biden’s. There is no excuse. If any other administration had committed the same transgression, I would issue the same reprimand. 

We should have stayed in Afghanistan for one reason only: by having troops and bases in Afghanistan’s major cities, the U.S. proactively prevented terrorist attacks on the mainland. For 20 years our strategy of occupation was successful, proven and vivified by the lack of another Sept. 11. We withdrew and gave up our hard earned prize for nothing in return, ignoring Trump-era guidelines. For absolutely nothing. 

Our President’s search for a political win yielded a loss of common sense.”

Within ten years it is extraordinarily likely there will be a major attack on the mainland United States by terrorist units operating within Afghanistan. Our President’s search for a political win yielded a loss of common sense. There is no glory in disregarding intelligence briefings. There is no prestige in withdrawing troops to the detriment of American allies and interests. And there is certainly no honor in a man who refuses to acknowledge American blood on his hands. 

Despite all this, the Afghanistan situation created an unusual American condition: agreement. Biden’s approval rating on his handling of Afghanistan resides at a measly 26%. Major media outlets are unusually objective in their reporting; this newfound objectivity has led to long sought and seldom granted bipartisan agreement. We have achieved unity through disaster, as we so often do, but at a terrible price. 

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Olivia Tulloch

The tragedies of this world never cease to disappoint me and watching the brutality in Afghanistan these past weeks has reminded me of that. In the modern century, a country should never be left to fall apart at the seams and force themselves back together. Yet, here we are. 

When President Biden announced the permanent withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, I felt a slew of mixed emotions. Like many other people I have talked to (liberal or conservative), I feel incredibly torn on this issue. Yes, most of the country is in agreement that our troops needed to be pulled out of Afghanistan, but we cannot seem to all agree on how to go about it. However, one thing remains clear: both parties are to blame for the disaster in Afghanistan.

Regardless of political affiliation, we should all concede that both Democrats and Republicans have contributed to this brutal war. This war has made its way through four U.S. presidents: Bush, Obama, Trump, and Biden. Whether it’s Bush’s failed new-age Marshall Plan in 2002 or Obama’s surge of deployed troops in 2009, it is clear that the United States retaliated in a war effort it could not maintain. Therefore, regardless of which president made the decision to withdraw the troops, he or she would have been faced with extreme backlash. It just so happens that this backlash is specifically directed at President Biden.

We need to remember that the common enemy is not the Afghan citizens but the Taliban, whose brutal leaders have infected a beautiful country and ruled it with hatred and ignorance.”

For a man that has contributed to two administrations in the past 15 years, I understand and somewhat agree with the conservative mindset that Biden’s actions look illogical. Watching the President’s speech left me confused and upset as well. His depiction of the Afghan military was heartless to say the least. Characterizing Afghan soldiers as quitters who gave up “sometimes without trying to fight” is a gross misrepresentation of what the citizens of Afghanistan have been put through. As a country, I feel we need to remember that the common enemy is not the Afghan citizens but the Taliban, whose brutal leaders have infected a beautiful country and ruled it with hatred and ignorance. Regardless of how I personally feel about Biden’s presentation of this policy, I know that there were only two real options: maintaining the status quo or withdrawing completely.

As President Trump’s successor, Biden had to make the decision of continuing the ongoing policy or dismantling it entirely. And according to Trump’s most recent Secretary of Defense Chris Miller, Trump’s negotiation with the Taliban was not actually a plan to permanently withdraw U.S. troops. Instead, according to Defense One in 2021, Trump’s policy was to convince the president of Afghanistan to allow some troops in the country permanently to combat the Taliban’s terrorism. Although this timeline explains President Biden’s decision, it does not make it any less painful. As journalist Eugene Robinson points out in his Washington Post article, “If there is a graceful, orderly way to abandon involvement in a brutal, unresolved civil war on the other side of the world, please cite historical precedents. I can’t find them.” There is no way this could have ended positively for the United States and Afghanistan. So, as Robinson states, “history will see this withdrawal, painful as it is to watch, not as ignominious but as inevitable.”

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