Written By: Anton Sawyer
Watching the city of Kabul in Afghanistan fall to the Taliban in August 2021 was gut-wrenching, but not entirely unexpected. Just as watching a loved one suffer from a terminal illness like cancer, you know the inevitable outcome, but it doesn't lessen the emotional blow that outcome comes to fruition.
When the US invaded Afghanistan in the early 2000s, the goal seemed simple enough—kill Osama Bin Laden and topple all terrorist networks in the Middle East. Once our troops began engaging in battle, it was soon learned that everything about this war was unconventional. The writing was on the wall and those whose boots hit the ground knew that even if their goals were met in taking down one terrorist network, there would just be another one waiting in the wings grabbing for power.
Today’s article is going to look at the troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, the outcome, and how misdirection has played a part in every violent event that has taken place in that part of the world during the 21st century.
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I need to make it clear that when it comes to the situation in Afghanistan (or any war, to be honest), I don’t have all the answers. Growing up, my father would tell me stories of his time in the Korean War—two tours. Some of the horrors were unimaginable, and it shaded my perceptions of military conflict pretty dramatically at an early age. I do understand that in many situations, the current way of life has to be razed to start anew and war can be the primary facilitator. What I can do though is look at how both the Republicans and Democrats have used war as a strategy to further their ends and look at what the relationship between the US and Afghanistan could become.
As much as I want to look at Afghanistan as its own stain on American history by itself, it’s nearly impossible to not include the war that took place in Iraq as well. Since they were both constructed by the same people, and Iraq ended up becoming an extension of the Afghani conflict (in operation “While We’re Up There”), there is some inevitable crossover.
The first, and in my opinion, the grossest example of misdirection came from former President George W. Bush and his “Mission Accomplished” speech. For those of you who do not recall, on May 1, 2003, Bush landed on the USS Abraham Lincoln to make a speech that America and our allies had won in Iraq. It’s imperative to remember that the day he made this speech, we had only been in Iraq since March of the same year. In his speech, he did not mince words and made his proclamations crystal clear. “My fellow Americans, major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.” He continued, “Because of [the US military] our nation is more secure. Because of [them] the tyrant has fallen and Iraq is free.” With as much gusto as a leader of his caliber could muster, he added. “Operation Iraqi Freedom was carried out with a combination of precision and speed and boldness the enemy did not expect and the world had not seen before.” He made the endgame pretty clear too. “The transition from dictatorship to democracy will take time, but it is worth every effort. Our coalition will stay until our work is done and then we will leave and we will leave behind a free Iraq.” Looking at some of the headlines over the last decade from every media outlet (liberal or conservative), the withdrawal from Iraq was ordered by former President Obama. Since this military maneuver was made, the proliferation of ISIS was blamed directly on Obama because of the vacuum left by America’s leaving Iraq.
Many people often forget that it was former President George W. Bush that signed the necessary documents to withdraw American troops from Iraq. In 2008 he signed the “US-Iraq Status of Forces Agreement” which detailed the fact that all American troops had to be out of the country by December 31, 2011. Looking at the timelines, he signed it right before leaving office knowing it would land right at the end of Obama’s administration—it was a chess move. Bush knew he could leave office saying that he did get the troops out to protect his legacy. Just to make sure though, he wanted to hedge his bets in case it was a complete disaster by having the troops pulled out during the reign of his successor—and it worked. Everything that came about from us leaving has been pegged on Obama, and it has just been accepted as fact by the media-obsessed “history” buffs.
Another, more recent misdirection brought about by the conservative party was in the fact that during 2020, a site ran by the RNC itself put up a webpage praising ex-President Trump for signing a “historic peace agreement with the Taliban.” With the recent events between Biden and the Taliban taking place, the site has since been removed. Thankfully The Guardian’s congressional reporter Hugo Lowell successfully tracked down the page in The Wayback Machine's digital archive. Featured as part of a section titled "President Trump Is Bringing Peace In The Middle East," the page described how Trump had "continued to take the lead in peace talks." The page also claims that "while President Trump has championed peace, Joe Biden has taken the lead in pushing for endless wars."
And then we have Biden and his actions …
To be blunt, Biden lied to the American people about Afghanistan. For weeks before the fall of Kabul, he made statement after statement proclaiming that things would be fine if we withdrew. He spoke of the many years of training the US military gave to the Afghani soldiers. He said more than once that Afghan troops were “as well-equipped as any army in the world.” Yet, the president’s top generals, including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley, urged Mr. Biden to keep a force of about 2,500 troops, while seeking a peace agreement between warring Afghan factions, to help maintain stability. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who previously served as a military commander in the region, said a full withdrawal wouldn’t provide any insurance against instability. In a series of meetings leading up to his decision, military and intelligence officials told Mr. Biden that security was deteriorating in Afghanistan, and they expressed concerns both about the capabilities of the Afghan military, and the Taliban’s likely ability to take over major Afghan cities. This evidence was so painfully clear that when Biden’s plan to remove troops started going south (as anticipated), he began deflecting the blame and attacking the reasons his detractors told him would be the cause of the failure. "We gave [the Afghan troops] every tool they could need," Biden said. "We gave them every chance to determine their own future. What we could not provide is the will to fight for that."
Hindsight is 20/20 and looking at all of the facts, it begs the question of, why now?
What is the reason for Biden making this move, knowing the history of the region and the certainty of which outcomes would prevail?
According to current and former administration officials, there have been reports stating that the president told his policy advisers that he was tired of the US providing life support for the Afghan government. A government that, in his view, was corrupt and had squandered billions of dollars in American assistance. Yes, this may be the reason; it does have a certain legitimacy to it. Though I think the real reason hits a little closer to home, to be honest. Biden made another statement that I feel shows his hand a little more clearly. “I’m now the fourth American president to preside over war in Afghanistan—two Democrats and two Republicans. I will not pass this responsibility onto a fifth president.” Sounds to me like Biden is leaping on the sword in order to offer a clean plate to Harris if she were to run/win in 2024.
I think Biden and the DNC have enough clarity to know he won’t run in 2024. There has been too much controversy surrounding his mental competency, his policies, inflation, etc. Democrats have long been painted as being weaker when it comes to military might and is always pressured by the Republicans about this kind of thing whenever debates happen to come up. This is something Harris will not have to contend with when it comes to her time to shine. It’s a great look politically, but where do we go from here? Biden and the DNC have not provided any information as to what will happen to those fleeing Afghanistan and coming stateside. China and Russia have already started to politically prepare to make a smooth transition to the new regime, so what does that mean on a global level regarding potential trade agreements? There’s a lot of uncertainty around all of this, and I highly doubt those who have been chosen to lead us will really clue us into anything useful. The one thing that IS important is remembering that this falls on Biden and the DNC, and not let the “facts” get morphed into it believing they somehow had nothing to do with it.
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