After the expenditure of $2 trillion, the loss of over 2,300 American troops and the deaths of some 1,57,000 Afghans, the Biden administration has just announced it will withdraw all military personnel by September 11, 2021. Today the American troop presence in the country has dwindled, in any case, to about 3,500 from the peak of 1,00,000 during the surge under the Obama administration. Under the current plan, a small contingent of forces will remain in Kabul largely to protect American diplomats stationed at the sprawling embassy in the city.
The decision to withdraw from Afghanistan has been greeted with equal measures of relief and dismay in the United States. Veterans’ groups, tired of a seemingly endless war, which has exacted significant casualties, have applauded the president’s decision. A number of prominent Republicans in Congress, however, have sharply criticised the decision arguing that setting a deadline for a withdrawal without spelling out binding conditions, could allow al-Qaida and other terrorist groups to reconstitute themselves in the country.
Despite those expressions of unhappiness the Biden administration, unlike its mercurial predecessor, will not backtrack on this commitment. At any event, this decision is wholly in keeping with President Biden’s long-held belief that the US shouldn’t have invaded Afghanistan with a massive military footprint. The Bush administration had, in fact, initially relied on elements of such a strategy augmented with the massive use of airpower. This strategy had not only toppled the Taliban regime but had induced al-Qaida and other terrorist forces to flee and take refuge in the border areas of Pakistan.
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