The White House is reportedly gearing up to announce a date for full U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan on Wednesday.
According to The Washington Post, President Joe Biden intends to see all American troops returned from the front by Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks that prompted the invasion of Afghanistan.
The reported announcement would represent yet another delay in recently redoubled efforts to end the war on terror.
Ebbing and flowing against the backdrop of Obama administration promises to demilitarize the Middle East, troop totals finally began to permanently decline some time after President Donald Trump took office, having campaigned on the termination of “endless wars” in the region.
An Afghan peace deal tendered under the Trump administration would have resulted in full withdrawal by May 1 of this year.
Signed last February, the original agreement provided for an incremental reduction of American involvement in the region, as well as the release of military and political prisoners held in the West.
For the Taliban, it meant legitimization and a commitment to fighting against the expansion of other regional terrorist organizations, including the Islamic State. Group officials have since warned, however, that attacks against foreign military personnel will resume if the U.S. and its NATO allies have not departed by the deadline.
Violent outbursts have complicated Western efforts to make good on the arrangement in recent months.
Since his inauguration, Biden has been hesitant to follow through with withdrawal plans. The administration promised to review the situation after reports indicated that the region was under increased levels of political instability and violence.
Despite assurances to the contrary, another delay in withdrawal also threatens to destroy the fragile Afghan peace deal, falling at the end of a long line of broken promises from the past three administrations.
“I’ve learned not to trust any deadline,” former Marine Corps Sgt. Benjamin Adams told The Western Journal.
Twice deployed to the southwestern Afghan province of Helmand, Adams spent months establishing battlespaces and overseeing the development of infrastructure in the early 2010s. He told The Western Journal in 2019, however, that cultural differences in the regional coalition had made the process a nightmare, and the goalposts of the war were rarely static.
“During my time of service, I think we won the war in Afghanistan three times,” Adams reiterated Tuesday, advocating a “healthy amount of skepticism.”
“From May to September — that’s a lot of time of us not upholding our end of the deal. Afghanistan’s not going to be magically just stabilized and everything’s going to be hunky-dory, whether we stay or don’t. The only thing that’ll complicate it is us still being there,” he added.
“I don’t foresee a scenario where everything plays out beautifully.”
None of this is to say that American veterans are not rooting for a swift withdrawal.
Many are. In fact, multiservice veteran and Bring Our Troops Home founder Dan McKnight told The Western Journal his growing community would sing the praises of any political figure to see such a mission accomplished, no matter which side of the aisle they hailed from.
“We will praise President Biden if he actually withdraws the troops on the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks,” McKnight said.
He and his colleagues stood firm in supporting the Trump administration’s efforts to end the war in Afghanistan, and according to him, the outlook and energy would not change in the Biden era.
But American veterans have seen the song and dance before.
Struggling to make good on promises to de-escalate the war on terror, President Barack Obama deployed thousands of troops to Afghanistan in 2009, before attempting to withdraw more than 20,000 when conditions improved in 2012. Those drawdowns proceeded for nearly two years, until escalating violence forced the administration into scheduling redeployments eventually greenlit by the Trump administration in 2017.
Trump would go on to push for promised withdrawals of his own, battling hawkish establishment figures to force troop totals in the nation down from 14,000 to fewer than 3,000.
By the time of Biden’s inauguration, decades of delay had brought the U.S. death toll in Afghanistan to roughly 2,300.
“We’re a little bit skeptical on the date that [Biden has] picked,” McKnight said. “We think it might be a little bit of virtue signaling. But if he actually does pull the troops out, we’ll be happy because we feel that the troops should have come home in February of 2002, when we killed or captured everybody that attacked us on 9/11.”
“We feel that America should be keeping our word on May 1,” he added.
“If we do leave and nothing bad happens between now and then, we will praise him for getting us out. But my heart turns to those folks that are still there for these last four months and 10 days. And I pray that they’re able to come home just like they would have been able to on May 1.”
As McKnight was apt to point out, political decisions often come at a human cost.
In 1918, Allied leaders knew the First World War was unofficially over for roughly two days before they notified troops on Nov. 11, when the original armistice was signed.
The delayed announcement cost thousands of lives on the Western front.
At the current rate of conflict, another few months in Afghanistan might not result in a single American casualty, with more than one year separating U.S. forces from a combat death within the nation’s borders.
A congressional report from Special Inspector General John F. Sopko noted in January, however, that overall casualties “remain exceptionally high for the winter months when fighting normally subsides.”
February strikes on Iran-backed militia groups also might serve to put American troops in the crosshairs throughout the Middle East, with 22 people reported dead as a result of the retaliatory action, which targeted militants operating out of Iraq — another nation the U.S. has struggled to stabilize and depart.
Flaring tensions threatened to further disrupt Western withdrawal efforts on Monday when the Taliban threatened to skip U.N.-sponsored peace talks in Turkey should they be carried out as scheduled at the end of the week.
The aggressive rhetoric resulted in appeasement the following day, as international partners agreed to reschedule for later this month.
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