When Joe Biden defended the US military withdrawal from Afghanistan on Thursday afternoon, he was careful to point out that “no nation has unified Afghanistan.”
“Empires have gone there and they haven’t,” he said.
No one needs to remind Biden of America’s failure to achieve lasting peace in Afghanistan after two decades of war. The Taliban, who were driven out of control by US troops after invading the country for the first time, are quickly taking over from more parts of the country. A bloody civil war seems certain. When asked if he was ready to declare “mission accomplished,” Biden dodged a George W. Bush replay. infamous photo op and plainly set, “No, no mission accomplished.”
When journalists pressed the president to reflect on the legacy of the protracted war, it seemed for a moment as if Biden could acknowledge the degree of that failure that happened with his predecessors (including his time as vice president): a declaration of defeat that it is rarely seen explicitly in a sitting American president. But instead he became obfuscated.
When asked if he felt the 20-year American military effort in Afghanistan had paid off, the president. Biden says the US achieved its two goals of tracking down Osama bin Laden and eliminating Al Qaeda’s ability to attack the US.
“That job had been over for some time.” pic.twitter.com/IPgAepjTya
– ABC News (@ABC) July 8, 2021
“We went for two reasons: one, to bring Osama bin Laden to the gates of hell,” he said. “The second reason was to eliminate al-Qaeda’s ability to deal with more attacks on the United States from that territory. We achieved both goals. ”
That explanation sidesteps the obvious impact of toppling the Taliban, erecting a new government, and attempting to build a civil society that would outlast America’s involvement. American forces did not leave when the al-Qaeda threat receded or when bin Laden was assassinated. Biden insisted that the United States “did not go to Afghanistan to build a nation,” but that is precisely why an initial invasion turned into the longest war in American history, one that has seen the US government. USA. spend more than $ 2.2 billion about US military forces or reconstruction efforts in the country.
It is possible to advocate for withdrawal without pretending that America’s involvement in Afghanistan has been anything but a tragedy, which will inevitably continue once the troops leave. On Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki at least he recognized that the United States “is not having a moment of celebration” at the prospect of leaving.
Even the staunchest supporters of Biden’s withdrawal acknowledge the reality facing Afghans in the near future. Weeks before the announcement of the withdrawal of Biden, Trita Parsi and Adam Weinstein from the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, which advocates a non-interventionist American foreign policy, wrote that “Afghanistan is likely to spiral into violence” regardless of whether Biden withdraws US forces or not. “The only variable you can control is whether American soldiers will be the target of that violence or if they will be safe at home with their families.” During his speech Thursday, Biden focused on that point, stressing that the rapid speed of retreat was necessary to protect American troops, without discussing the ramifications for Afghans who oppose the Taliban left behind.
Biden can credibly defend his decision as the inevitable reality of a failed military effort, a way to cut losses and embrace reality when his predecessors couldn’t. But he cannot insist that the United States achieved its goals in Afghanistan, unless the plan has always been to give the Taliban a gateway to power. (It was not)
A lesson from Washington PostAfghanistan Documents draft, which details the deceptive ways in which American leaders portrayed the war to the American public privately knowing it was doomed, is that the best deception is often directed inward. You cannot fool others without first doing it to yourself.