US President Joe Biden is aiming to complete the American troop withdrawal by the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks Photo: AFP/File
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Afghan retreat: U.S. formally begins withdrawing from its longest war

46 Comments
By Jay DESHMUKH

The United States formally began withdrawing its last troops from Afghanistan Saturday, bringing its longest war nearer to an end but also heralding an uncertain future for a country in the tightening grip of an emboldened Taliban.

U.S. officials on the ground say the withdrawal is already a work in progress -- and May 1 is just a continuation -- but Washington has made an issue of the date because it is a deadline agreed with the Taliban in 2020 to complete the pullout.

The skies above Kabul and nearby Bagram airbase have been buzzing with more U.S. helicopter activity than usual as the pullout gears up, following the start Thursday of a concurrent NATO withdrawal.

The prospect of an end of 20 years of US presence comes despite fighting raging across the countryside in the absence of a peace deal.

A stark reminder of what remains came late Friday with a car bomb in Pul-e-Alam, south of the capital, killing at least 27 people and injuring 100 more.

U.S. President Joe Biden is determined to end what he called "the forever war", announcing last month that the withdrawal of the remaining 2,500 American forces would be complete by the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

"A horrific attack 20 years ago... cannot explain why we should remain there in 2021," he said.

Since the U.S. withdrawal deal was struck, the Taliban have not directly engaged foreign troops, but insurgents have mercilessly attacked government forces in the countryside and waged a terror campaign in urban areas.

The exit of U.S. forces has only exacerbated the fear felt by ordinary Afghans.

"Everyone is scared that we might go back to the dark days of the Taliban era," said Mena Nowrozi, who works at a private radio station in Kabul.

"The Taliban are still the same; they have not changed. The US should have extended their presence by at least a year or two," she told AFP.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani insists that government forces -- who for months have carried out most of the ground fighting against the Taliban -- are "fully capable" of keeping the insurgents at bay.

He said the pullout also means the Taliban have no reason to fight.

"Who are you killing? What are you destroying? Your pretext of fighting the foreigners is now over," Ghani said in a speech this week.

Still, General Mark Milley, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, has not ruled out total chaos.

"On the worst-case analysis, you have a potential collapse of the government, a potential collapse of the military," he said. "You have a civil war and all the humanitarian catastrophe that goes with it."

Police officer Abdul Malik from the former insurgent bastion of Kandahar said they were prepared.

"We have to take care of our homeland... We will do our best to defend our soil," he told AFP.

The U.S.-led military onslaught in Afghanistan began in October 2001 in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks.

Two decades later, and after the death of almost 2,400 Americans and tens of thousands of Afghans, Biden says the final withdrawal was justified as U.S. forces had now made sure the country cannot again become a base for foreign jihadists to plot against the West.

Concerns are high that the Taliban might yet strike at retreating U.S. forces, and in the southern province of Kandahar -- where the foes used to clash regularly -- security sources say several areas are laden with explosives planted by the insurgents.

"If the Taliban attack retreating U.S. or allied forces, it would be to bloody the nose of a defeated enemy and to humiliate it further," said Afghanistan specialist Nishank Motwani.

Andrew Watkins, of the International Crisis Group, said the coming months would see the situation become a more purely local conflict.

"The United States and its NATO partners are stepping back and giving the two primary sides of this conflict... their first instance to fight with and assess their opponents without the extra factor of the United States," he said.

© 2021 AFP

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.


46 Comments
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Some cards.. I don't recall the Afghani people ever inviting the US in the first place. The country is worse off now than before the US invasion.

I never said they we’re good cards. I never said they were the cards they asked for. I never said they were the cards the wanted. I never said they were the cards they needed. I most certainly never said they were the cards they deserved.

But those are the cards they were dealt. How they play those cards is up to them.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Not enough Afghans want to change their govt. The US and other allies have dumped $$$ billions into the country for effectively zero outcome. Well past time to leave. If the residents don't want the outcome being offered and you aren't willing to kill everyone to get that outcome, and send them to "re-education" camps, then it is best to leave.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

For every person who believes that sending the military to Afghanistan was a bad idea, please remember...or study...what the situation was twenty years ago and then read this entire article because you are mistaken just as President pro tem Biden is now.

And Mr. Biden cannot blame President Trump for the coming fiasco because Biden could retract the deal with the Taliban just as Trump did with Iran.

First, it must be asked if one has ANY knowledge of the 'geography' of Afghanistan vis-a-vis its geopolitical location? A bonus question would be if one has heard the description of Afghanistan as "The Graveyard of Empires"? So, geographical (geopolitical) location. Which Middle Eastern country is America currently being pushed to destroy by well funded, OFFSHORE pathological political forces corrupting the American government? And another question: Which country is strategically located BETWEEN Afghanistan and...Iraq? And lastly, which country may have been led into enormously Humanly expensive wars on vaporous, implausible evidence in order to gain tactical advantage for the benefit of a pathological third polity but found the investment way TOO expensive politically and is now bailing out just as its equally 'powerful' predecessor did, with no penalties nor even criticism of the psychopaths who initially orchestrated these horrific atrocities? If the answers to these simple questions are not obvious, the forces corrupting American 'foreign policy' (see: thermobaric) are by who we are being pointed at. And, since WWII, America has not 'won' any of the many murderous conflicts it has initiated since assuming itself 'boss' of the World, free to smite ANYONE disobedient to RIGHT, that is, America's right to kill anyone we want to who is disobedient to our (see: Corporate) wishes. We may want to review our 'successes'. But, it is (still) my right as an American, who can be nothing else, to be completely disgusted with the small and compliant mentalities of my own People so easily led into mass murder on specious grounds. Thank you for your time...

0 ( +1 / -1 )

For every person who believes that sending the military to Afghanistan was a bad idea, please remember...or study...what the situation was twenty years ago and then read this entire article because you are mistaken just as President pro tem Biden is now.

And Mr. Biden cannot blame President Trump for the coming fiasco because Biden could retract the deal with the Taliban just as Trump did with Iran.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

For every person who believes that sending the military to Afghanistan was a bad idea, please remember...or study...what the situation was twenty years ago and then read this entire article because you are mistaken just as President pro tem Biden is now.

And Mr. Biden cannot blame President Trump for the coming fiasco because Biden could retract the deal with the Taliban just as Trump did with Iran.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

The Afghan War is only part of a greater war the U.S. has continued to engage in, spanning from the 20th century to the 21st. Will future historians call it America's "Hundred Years' War"?

No. This is just another rubbish, fake comment brought to you by anti US propaganda.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

@GdTokyo: Bush could have used the force of the combined services, invaded with 400k troops (the figure Shinseki said was necessary to occupy the country) destroyed Al Quida, killed Bin Laden and set up an actual government and infrastructure. 

Obama/Biden, Trump/Pence, and now Biden/Harris could still use 400k troops to set up and actual government and infrastructure. It’s not too late! But Biden would just prefer to hand it all over to the Taliban so they can destroy the lives of young women who have only ever known a relatively free existence. That’s what misogynistic old men who feel up young girls in public settings do.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Let's be honest here.

President Trump reduced US forces in Afghanistan over the last 12 months from ~12,000 to 2500. The 2500 number might be off, since the Pentagon can't count. They get confused between regular Army, Navy, Rangers, and all the SpecOps people, it seems.

At the height under President Obama, there were about 100,000 US Troops there Aug 2010 through 2011 - say it ain't so! He did reduce the numbers to 8,400 by the end of his term.

Refs: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/14/world/asia/us-troops-afghanistan.html

https://www.militarytimes.com/news/your-military/2016/07/06/a-timeline-of-u-s-troop-levels-in-afghanistan-since-2001/

It will be good to have everyone out of there. Only SpecOps and CIA should have ever been there in the first place, hunting bin Laden.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

EvilBuddah.... The Pakistanis supplied the logistics and many of the fighters the weapons were supplied by the US and paid for by the Saudis.

Massoud was against Pakistani involvement in Afghanistan, that and his friendly ties to the Iranians were the reasons he received no US support. The US was quite happy to see him gone.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

But those are the cards the people of Afghanistan have been dealt.

Some cards.. I don't recall the Afghani people ever inviting the US in the first place. The country is worse off now than before the US invasion.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

Ho Chi Minh said it best - “You can kill ten of our men for every one we kill of yours. But even at those odds, you will lose and we will win.”

South Vietnam fell after all the years of blood and treasure the US spent on it, ultimately, because the people just didn’t like the South Vietnamese govt enough to die for it. Say what you will about the North, but they were utterly committed to their cause, committed enough to wage a 30 year war against the most powerful military on earth.

If Afghanistan falls to the Taliban again, it will be because the Afghani people decided their democratic govt wasn’t worth dying for - that it would be better to live under the Taliban than to wage war against them.

I can’t say whether that decision is the right one or the wrong one - that’s not my place. But those are the cards the people of Afghanistan have been dealt. If the freedoms and progress you have made are as precious to you as you claim, then you simply cannot rely on others to defend them for you, otherwise - like Diem and Thieu before you - you’ll be seen as nothing but a foreign puppet. The Taliban need to know that the govt of Afghanistan is one supported by the people, not one propped up by an outside invader.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

The 2020 Taliban deal was signed by Trump in February, and it gave a date 14 months away for withdrawal, which is where we are now. Biden honored Trump’s deal. Time for a (socially-distanced) block party with your Dem/Rep neighbors?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

“The war’s out there man!”

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Congrats America, 20 years of nothing but pain and misery. Glad to see this chapter closed , Just like Iraq war nothin was gained , War is always Hell, and this endeavour was no different.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Congrats America, 20 years of nothing but pain and misery. Glad to see this chapter closed , Just like Iraq war nothin was gained , War is always Hell, and this endeavour was no different.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

I always say if your want to be a fighter understand it is a lonely thankless position But man the stuff

you will see and do WOW!

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Bertie: For the most part any conflict between two or more nation states is considered a war. In Modern times they have been called conflicts so that the nations can cheat the fighters out of benefits. Afghanistan is technically a conflict because the President did not ask and congress did not declare a state of war. This varies from nation to nation it is all about the money in the end

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Why is this called a war?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

You knew what you were signing up for. We did, too. Don't blame us for not making the same mistake you made.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Amazing what can be done when an antagonistic press morphs into a flock of sycophantic sheep.

Is that the official Fox News narrative?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

A relic of the Cold War. The US should never have been there to begin with. "Afghan" itself is a nebulous concept. Let them sort it out themselves.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Nice one Joe!

He could have been a contrarian and stayed just to spite Trump, but I’m glad he chose not to.

"Everyone is scared that we might go back to the dark days of the Taliban era," said Mena Nowrozi, who works at a private radio station in Kabul.

”Might”? I fear that’s “will”. Mena Nowrozi is just another of the thousand Afghanis caught in the middle. Tough break.

No doubt Afghanistan will drop out of the news. It’s no longer needed by the media.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

"The first part of the last sentence on dependence is correct but the latter part isn’t."

Just being sarcastic

Oops I missed that.

The US has a history of leaving allies out in the cold once their interests are served. Kurdish people please take note.

Taiwanese people and the people of Taiwan should take note as well, but they’ve already experienced this, resulting in losing the civil war to the CCP and being dropped at the UN two decades later.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

The U.S. forces are withdrawing from Afghanistan at long last. But where are the withdrawing troops supposed to go? To the U.S. mainland or to Okinawa bases? Neither. (No, to Okinawa.)

The Indo-Pacific under threat of China would need maritime forces namely US Navy and Marine. Army is not necessarily fit to the strategy. Japan hosts Marine, Navy and Air services. The Korean Peninsula is a possible relocation place.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Pakistan has had coup's and unstable governments with little progress for decades. If that is what you get from "playing your cards well" between East and West then Japan is better off where it is.

Stability wasn’t the topic. Pakistan is a very good player and savvy in foreign relations as seen in its relations with the US, China, Russia, Iran, and India. Not easy. Japan can as well with China and Iran but faces pressure from the US.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

The US has not won a war since WW II. 

On record, mostly true (except for the Gulf War in 1990 under the US-led coalition; the shorter in time of operation and occupation, the better).

It's more remarkable that Afghanistan has not been defeated to major powers from the Imperial Britain, the Imperial Russia, Persian/Iran, the Soviet Union and the US. Similar to Vietnam.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

The U.S. forces are withdrawing from Afghanistan at long last. But where are the withdrawing troops supposed to go? To the U.S. mainland or to Okinawa bases? Neither. (No, to Okinawa.)The U.S. has been negotiating with the Indian government to host the retreating troops on their soil (See "US could seek 'expeditionary' base deal with India", Asia Times: Apr. 27, 2021). 

If people think the Afghan War was the longest war the U.S. has engaged in its history, they are wrong. The Afghan War is only part of a greater war the U.S. has continued to engage in, spanning from the 20th century to the 21st.  Will future historians call it America's "Hundred Years' War"?

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Should not have gone in to Afghanistan in the first place!

4 ( +7 / -3 )

"The US had no problems with leaving the poor people of Afghanistan to the Taliban whgen they were ACTUALLY arming the very same TALIBAN!

The best time for women's rights in Afghanistan was during the Soviet occupation."

Wrong.

The US armed the mujahideens along with the support of General Zia. When the Soviets left, there was a power vacuum and the mujahideens turned against each other and there was a civil war.

Among these mujahideens was Ahmad Shah Massoud, the lion of Panjshir. He was a staunch US ally and was referred to as 'the Afghan who won the Cold War'. However, the Americans provided no support to him and the Pakistani's saw an opportunity in taking control of their western neighbor. It was the Pakistani's who trained and armed Taliban.

Ahmad Shah Massoud remain a sworn enemy of Taliban till September 9th 2001 when he was assassinated by Al Qaeda. It was clear that Al Qaeda saw an imminent invasion of Afghanistan and they wanted to remove any support that the US might get from local mujahideens.

The US has a history of leaving allies out in the cold once their interests are served. Kurdish people please take note.

As for women's rights in Afghanistan the best time was the pre-1979 period when Daoud Khan was in power. But yes, he was a Soviet ally.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

GdTokyo... The US had no problems with leaving the poor people of Afghanistan to the Taliban whgen they were ACTUALLY arming the very same TALIBAN!

The best time for women's rights in Afghanistan was during the Soviet occupation.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

The US has not won a war since WW II. These "conflicts" all started by Republican presidents have been a stain on American history like Japanese internment camps, trump's handling of immigrants at the Mexico border, slavery and the genocide of indigenous peoples.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

"The first part of the last sentence on dependence is correct but the latter part isn’t."

Just being sarcastic.

Pakistan has taken millions of dollars of aid from the US to enrich its generals and corrupt civilian politicians, supported the Taliban and Haqqani network, sheltered Bin Laden and other militants all the while cozying up to China. Now that the Americans are going there is no reason for Pakistan to put up any pretense of being a staunch ally.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Pakistan is a very good player and has played its cards very well between the east and the west. Japan should learn.

Pakistan has had coup's and unstable governments with little progress for decades. If that is what you get from "playing your cards well" between East and West then Japan is better off where it is.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Afghanistan is landlocked and the nearest sea coast is 480 kms away. That would also mean that the US would again be dependent on Pakistan which has proven time and again how loyal and ally it is to the Americans.

The first part of the last sentence on dependence is correct but the latter part isn’t.

Pakistan is the major problem for US failure in Afghanistan. The US wants Pakistan to back every US action, remove the status of ally with China, stop the growing relations with Russia and Iran, and let US have bases just like it has in Qatar and South Korea so they can keep an eye on China, Russia and Iran. There is also hate for Pakistan for developing nuclear weapons.

Pakistan is a very good player and has played its cards very well between the east and the west. Japan should learn.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

Was, is and will always be a horrific disaster for the country and for the USA. Trillions wasted on an invasion and a 20 year war that leaves the country in control by the same characters from 2001. The Taliban was willing to give up OBL to the USA but Bush/Cheney wanted shock and awe and promised a democracy in the country after destroying it. And then they let OBL get away in the hills of Tora Bora so they could invade Iraq based on lies. But how the rightwing crowd cheered this all on at the time. Liberals know it was doomed and would end up exactly as it has, another massive failure by war monger republicans like Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld. Thousand of lives lost for nothing and trillions of dollars wasted just like Trump said many times, one of the few times he was right about anything.

Trump hits Bush: Invading Iraq 'the single worst decision ever made

President Trump blasted former President George W. Bush on Saturday over the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, calling it "the single worst decision ever made."

Speaking at a closed-door event with Republican donors in Florida, Trump mocked Bush's intellect and compared his decision to invade Iraq to "throwing a big fat brick into a hornet's nest."

"Here we are, like the dummies of the world, because we had bad politicians running our country for a long time,"

10 ( +10 / -0 )

Absolutely about time.

Note that the withdrawal in May was the agreement that Trump had worked out, and the opposition and media was against (remember the hoax about Russian bounties on soldiers?)

Amazing what can be done when an antagonistic press morphs into a flock of sycophantic sheep.

-2 ( +9 / -11 )

I agree with the comments above. I respect those wanting a pull out. My own opinion is that we took responsibility for these people, we shouldn’t leave them to the mercy of the Taliban.

If 2,500 troops was enough to hold them at bay, I feel that to be a reasonable cause of action and apparently the Joint Chiefs agrees with me.

But as I’ve admitted before, it’s not my ass on the line.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

I hope that all the US soldiers that suffered through this are well taken care of.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

GDTokyo, there is a very old saying: "The map is not the terrain". This is especially true in Afghanistan.

The terrain there is known as the most challenging place on earth for military actions. It's WHY the Taliban and their predecessors have been able to hold control for centuries.

There is another old saying: "Never fight land war in Asia." Check Wikipedia for that explanation.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

"Should keep a carrier strike force close enough to provide air cover for the afghan Government forces"

Afghanistan is landlocked and the nearest sea coast is 480 kms away. That would also mean that the US would again be dependent on Pakistan which has proven time and again how loyal and ally it is to the Americans.

12 ( +12 / -0 )

Bush could have used the force of the combined services, invaded with 400k troops (the figure Shinseki said was necessary to occupy the country) destroyed Al Quida, killed Bin Laden and set up an actual government and infrastructure.

Possibly but I often wonder when will the US learn? Ideologies can't be killed. And why do the US feel they have to "set up" governments that are beholden to them? From Central and South America to Vietnam and the Middle East... it's a long, long list of interference.

One can only hope that dialogue and sanctions can persuade stubborn mindsets to be softened. Other empires learned the hard way that Afghanistan isn't for taming, no matter how many bombs they drop on the country.

This is not to say the plight of ordinary Afghans should be ignored, either. But the invasion was completely misguided, as you've pointed out.

3 ( +8 / -5 )

Should keep a carrier strike force close enough to provide air cover for the afghan Government forces and maybe have them contribute to the cost of that. It could be the difference between Taliban taking the whole country and having a free Afghan nation. The carrier force could include European nations in the rotation as France, England, Italy and even Spain can take a turn with a carrier on station.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Bush could have used the force of the combined services, invaded with 400k troops (the figure Shinseki said was necessary to occupy the country) destroyed Al Quida, killed Bin Laden and set up an actual government and infrastructure.

But W, Dick, Don decided to do it on the cheap. They needed the Military to look for non-existent WMD in Iraq.

So Bin Laden lived, we chose a psychotic drug addict to rule, and the Taliban bided their time.

Now we are leaving the Afghans to their fate. The Taliban will be executing women in the streets of the Capital in a couple of months.

5 ( +11 / -6 )

About time.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

When the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan they delivered a goodbye kiss to General Zia-ul-Haq of Pakistan since it was his support of the mujahideens that undermined their war effort. I wonder if the Americans will give something similar to Pakistan's ISI or army generals.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Nice one Joe!

3 ( +10 / -7 )

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