Afghanistan Opinion: Withdrawing Was a Mistake

Artwork by Connor Magurno ’22

By Vincent D’Amore ’22

Over the past couple of months, the Biden administration has drawn criticism over its handling of the Afghan War and the withdrawal from Afghanistan. The war started in late 2001 following the September 11th terrorist attacks on the United States at the hands of Al-Qaeda. Since then, it has resulted in the deaths of thousands of American soldiers. However, these efforts by U.S. troops were not pointless. The U.S. did eventually stamp out a significant portion of Al-Qaeda—most significantly, in 2011, Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind behind 9/11, was eliminated by SEAL Team Six. This, however, raises the question of why the U.S. remained in Afghanistan after Bin Laden was terminated.

After the U.S. eliminated Bin Laden and weakened the Taliban, the U.S. started to withdraw from the country.  

The U.S. and NATO decided to keep troops in Afghanistan to protect the Afghan government and to build up Afghanistan as a nation. This tactic was relatively successful for about five years until the two most recent presidents, Donald Trump and Joseph Biden, decided to pull all U.S. forces out of Afghanistan. Towards the end of his term in office, Trump started negotiating with the Afghan government and the Taliban to withdraw all of the remaining U.S. troops from Afghanistan by May 1, 2021. And so, after being elected in 2020, Biden had a decision to make. He could have left some troops in Afghanistan, but went in the same direction as Trump and opted to instead remove them. Biden, however, pushed back the deadline to remove U.S. troops to September 11, 2021. 

In short, the evacuation of U.S. troops and Afghan allies did not go as planned. The evacuation was rushed due to poor judgement from the Biden administration, which resulted in the deaths of thirteen U.S. troops and hundreds of stranded U.S. citizens. This begs the question: Should the U.S. have left Afghanistan? The short answer is no.

Prior to August 2021, there were no deaths of any U.S. service members for eighteen months in Afghanistan. By means of comparison, the U.S. considered North Korea to be a bigger threat than Afghanistan at the time: there were nearly 30,000 active duty service members stationed in South Korea, while only 2,500 were stationed in Afghanistan. Clearly, keeping limited troops in Afghanistan was not expensive nor costly in bloodshed. The U.S. was merely acting as a police force in Afghanistan, and it came at a small price. 

Another incentive for keeping U.S. troops in Afghanistan was to keep the Middle East stable. Now that the Taliban has taken over, there is no promise for a democratic government in Afghanistan, and terrorism may have an opportunity to rise. 

Lastly, now that Afghanistan is under Taliban rule, women are being treated very poorly. Clarissa Ward of CNN, a leading journalist covering the evacuation of Afghanistan, was repeatedly told to cover her face by armed Taliban members on the streets of Kabul, the nation’s capital. Clearly, the Taliban have reverted back to their old ways of treating women as second-class citizens. When the U.S. was present in Afghanistan, this type of treatment of women was much more uncommon and far less severe, especially in a large city such as Kabul. As a result of the U.S. leaving Afghanistan, women are now in more danger than they had been previously.

It was a grave mistake to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan, we may be forced to return to Afghanistan in the near future.