[OPINION] Biden: American troops shouldn’t ‘be dying in a war Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves’

U.S. President Joe Biden on Monday, August 16 address the nation on his decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. | White House/YouTube screenshot

HEARTBREAKING. We watched videos of Afghan people rushing to board U.S. military cargo jets to escape the wrath of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

About 600 men, women and children were able to make it to the flight while we saw what appears to be figures of people desperately trying to hold on to the jet from outside and fell to the ground as the aircraft rushed to take off.

They all want to escape after Afghan forces surrendered to the Taliban, which refers to itself as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. They are Afghans who denounce the West and the western culture as oppressive against Islams, and “condemn the international forces as occupiers and invaders,” according to  Huffington Post report.

On the other hand, the Taliban has been condemned by nations around the world for their harsh interpretation of Islamic Sharia law, which has resulted in the brutal treatment of many Afghans, as reported by Rosemarie Skain in 2002, on “The Women of Afghanistan Under the Taliban.”

There are more vulnerable Afghan people who are suffering the abuses of the Taliban after it took over the Afghan government. As the Associated Press reported, “the reverberations of the Talibans’ success were startling, endangering Afghan women and girls, posing new security threats, and threatening to undercut global views of America’s reliability.”

“The chaotic reports emerging from Kabul cap more than two decades of American efforts in the country to root out terrorism and transform the nation into a functioning democratic state,” USA Today reported. “Thousands of American lives and nearly $830 billion in official spending, those efforts have resulted in failure,” the report added.

Critics blame President Joe Biden Biden for what has happened in Kabul. After all, Biden wanted to end the 20-year war, and set a deadline of August 31 to withdraw all U.S. forces from Afghanistan.

As USA Today reported, “Last week, an American military assessment estimated it would be a month before the capital would come under insurgent pressure.”

“Defying expectations, the Taliban seized nearly all of Afghanistan in a short time, despite the hundreds of billions of dollars spent by the United States and NATO over nearly two decades to build up Afghan security forces,” the report added.

BUT Biden owned up to his decision. Speaking to the American people in a televised speech on Monday, August 16, the president said, “I stand squarely behind my decision. After 20 years, I’ve learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw U.S. forces. That’s why we’re still there. We were clear-eyed about the risks. We planned for every contingency. But I always promised the American people that I will be straight with you.”

“I also want to acknowledge how painful this is to so many of us. The scenes that we’re seeing in Afghanistan, they’re gut-wrenching, particularly for our veterans, our diplomats, humanitarian workers — for anyone who has spent time on the ground working to support the Afghan people. For those who have lost loved ones in Afghanistan, and for Americans who have fought and served our country in Afghanistan, this is deeply, deeply personal. It is for me as well,” he added.

The president explained the reason why went to Afghanistan and why we are pulling out now.

“We went to Afghanistan almost 20 years ago with clear goals: get those who attacked us on Sept. 11, 2001, and make sure Al Qaeda could not use Afghanistan as a base from which to attack us again. We did that. We severely degraded Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. We never gave up the hunt for Osama bin Laden and we got him.”

“That was a decade ago. Our mission in Afghanistan was never supposed to have been nation-building. It was never supposed to be creating a unified, centralized democracy. Our only vital national interest in Afghanistan remains today what it has always been: preventing a terrorist attack on American homeland.”

“I’ve argued for many years that our mission should be narrowly focused on counterterrorism, not counterinsurgency or nation-building. That’s why I opposed the surge when it was proposed in 2009 when I was vice president. And that’s why as president I’m adamant we focus on the threats we face today, in 2021, not yesterday’s threats.”

President Biden discussed how a terrorist threat has metastasized well beyond Afghanistan and how terrorist organizations are establishing affiliates in multiple countries in Africa and Asia.

Our Commander-in-Chief told the American people that “we have conduct[ed] effective counterterrorism missions against terrorist groups in multiple countries where we don’t have permanent military presence. If necessary, we’ll do the same in Afghanistan. We’ve developed counterterrorism over-the-horizon capability that will allow us to keep our eyes firmly fixed on the direct threats to the United States in the region, and act quickly and decisively if needed.”

Biden likewise intimated the options he had to discern about and how he finally made the decision to pull out of Afghanistan despite the risks.

When I came into office, I inherited a deal that President Trump negotiated with the Taliban. Under his agreement, U.S. forces would be out of Afghanistan by May 1, 2021, just a little over three months after I took office. U.S. forces had already drawn down during the Trump administration from roughly 15,500 American forces to 2,500 troops in country. And the Taliban was at its strongest militarily since 2001.

The choice I had to make as your president was either to follow through on that agreement or be prepared to go back to fighting the Taliban in the middle of the spring fighting season. There would have been no cease-fire after May 1. There was no agreement protecting our forces after May 1. There was no status quo of stability without American casualties after May 1.

 There was only the cold reality of either following through on the agreement to withdraw our forces or escalating the conflict and sending thousands more American troops back into combat in Afghanistan, and lurching into the third decade of conflict.

The truth is, this did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated. So what’s happened? Afghanistan political leaders gave up and fled the country. The Afghan military collapsed, sometimes without trying to fight. If anything, the developments of the past week reinforced that ending U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan now was the right decision.

American troops cannot and should not be fighting in a war and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves. 

So I’m left again to ask of those who argue that we should stay: How many more generations of America’s daughters and sons would you have me send to fight Afghanistan’s civil war when Afghan troops will not? How many more lives, American lives, is it worth, how many endless rows of headstones at Arlington National Cemetery? 

I’m clear on my answer: I will not repeat the mistakes we’ve made in the past. The mistake of staying and fighting indefinitely in a conflict that is not in the national interest of the United States, of doubling down on a civil war in a foreign country, of attempting to remake a country through the endless military deployments of U.S. forces. Those are the mistakes we cannot continue to repeat because we have significant vital interest in the world that we cannot afford to ignore.

I’m now the fourth American president to preside over war in Afghanistan. Two Democrats and two Republicans. I will not pass this responsibility on to a fifth president. I will not mislead the American people by claiming that just a little more time in Afghanistan will make all the difference. Nor will I shrink from my share of responsibility for where we are today and how we must move forward from here. I am president of the United States of America, and the buck stops with me.

I know my decision will be criticized. But I would rather take all that criticism than pass this decision on to another president of the United States, yet another one, a fifth one. Because it’s the right one, it’s the right decision for our people. The right one for our brave service members who risked their lives serving our nation. And it’s the right one for America.

Do you share President Biden’s conviction and support his decision? I do.

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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.

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Gel Santos Relos has been in news, talk, public service and educational broadcasting since 1989 with ABS-CBN and is now serving the Filipino audience using different platforms, including digital broadcasting, and print, and is working on a new public service program for the community. You may contact her through email at gelrelos@icloud.com, or send her a message via Facebook at Facebook.com/Gel.Santos.Relos.

Gel Santos Relos

Gel Santos Relos is the anchor of TFC’s “Balitang America.” Views and opinions expressed by the author in this column are solely those of the author and not of Asian Journal and ABS-CBN-TFC. For comments, go to www.TheFil-AmPerspective.com and www.facebook.com/Gel.Santos.Relos

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