President Joe Biden doesn’t often agree with his predecessor, but if he follows through on withdrawing from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, he will have fulfilled one of former President Donald Trump’s campaign promises.
Biden’s withdrawal date is later than Trump’s May deadline. But barring further delays, it would end the United States’s longest war. “We went to Afghanistan in 2001 to root out al Qaeda, to prevent future terrorist attacks against the United States, planned from Afghanistan. Our objective was clear,” he said.
Now, Biden says it is time to end what Trump called an “endless war” by removing the last of the 3,500 U.S. troops serving there.
Doing so would allow Biden to prevail over the generals who have been reluctant to withdraw in a way that neither Trump nor former President Barack Obama ever could during their own terms. Both men were persuaded to ignore their doubts about the intervention and send additional troops to Afghanistan, though Trump was moving toward withdrawal by the end of his presidency.
“I am now the fourth American president to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan,” Biden said on Wednesday. “Two Republicans. Two Democrats. I will not pass this responsibility to a fifth.”
The call for turning the page on the Afghanistan War has divided Republicans. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell declared it a “retreat in the face of an enemy that has not yet been vanquished.” Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican who counseled Trump to remain in Afghanistan, called the plan “dumber than dirt.”
But some Republicans aligned with Trump are siding with Biden. “Better late than never,” said Sen. Josh Hawley, though the Missouri Republican believes Biden should have stuck with Trump’s original date. “It’s time for this forever war to end.”
Sen. Ted Cruz told CNN he was “glad the troops are coming home.” Sen. Rand Paul, the other GOP senator from McConnell’s Kentucky, tweeted that it was “great when we can find places to agree.”
“I’m grateful President Biden is keeping President Trump’s plan to leave Afghanistan, even with a delay until fall,” Paul said. “The time to bring our troops home is now – or as soon as possible. Enough endless wars.”
Will Ruger, Trump’s final nominee to serve as ambassador to Afghanistan and a veteran of the war, endorsed the move.
“Republicans should back an honest-to-goodness withdrawal from Afghanistan and insist that Biden be kept at his word and achieves it,” Ruger said. “Ending our endless war there was the policy of President Trump and something he thought was in our national interest first, second, and third.”
Still, it would be Biden who would own the withdrawal on or near the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that led to the war. As a top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the time, Biden backed the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. But by the time he became vice president, he had grown more skeptical of the Middle East entanglements.
Obama recounted in his memoir that Biden, alone among the principals, counseled him against the 2009 Afghan surge. “Listen to me, boss,” he said in Obama’s telling, “Maybe I’ve been around this town for too long, but one thing I know is when these generals are trying to box in a new president.”
The 44th president added, “[Biden] brought his face within a few inches from mine and stage-whispered, ‘Don’t let them jam you.’”
Biden may have heeded his own advice. In late 2019, the Washington Post published documents suggesting that U.S. officials regularly exaggerated the amount of progress being made in Afghanistan. “We didn’t have the foggiest notion of what we were undertaking,” Douglas Lute, a three-star general who advised both the Obama and George W. Bush administrations on the war, was quoted as saying in 2015, decrying “the magnitude of this dysfunction.”
Many GOP lawmakers, including the top Republicans on the relevant House and Senate committees, opposed withdrawal even under Trump. In striking distance of majorities in both houses and with an election next year, they have little incentive to support Biden.
“Foreign terrorists will not leave the U.S. alone because our politicians have grown tired of taking the fight to them,” McConnell said on the Senate floor.
Tags: News, White House, Joe Biden, Donald Trump, Barack Obama, Rand Paul, US Senator Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, War in Afghanistan, Afghanistan, National Security, Foreign Policy, Terrorism
Original Author: W. James Antle III
Original Location: Trump wanted out of Afghanistan. Now, Biden says he’ll withdraw