The debate over the Afghanistan withdrawal

By: Nicholas Ratcliff

Multimedia Journalist

Back in February of 2020, past President Donald Trump and his administration began negotiations with the Taliban to set up an agreement concerning the United States’ (U.S.) withdrawal out of Afghanistan. During these negotiations, which only involved the Taliban and not Afghanistan’s official government, an agreement was struck between the two groups.

People are lining up trying to catch a plane to escape the Taliban.
Photo Courtesy of the Associated Press

This agreement stated that the U.S. would begin the withdrawal of their troops out of Afghanistan, in a slow timely process, while also promising a full withdrawal by May 1, 2021. The two groups also agreed to release 5,000 Taliban soldiers. The Taliban, in turn, would stop recruiting new members, allow for a peaceful withdrawal and a pledge that they would stop attacking the Afghanistan government.

The Trump administration held up its end of the bargain, and over time, reduced American troop levels from 13,000 to 2,500. They also released every prisoner that they claimed they would. While this was going on, the Taliban continued to recruit old members of Al Queda to their cause and continued their attacks on the Afghanistan government.

A member of the Taliban posing with newly acquired weaponry.
Photo Courtesy of Associated Press

According to Dr. Nathaniel Cogley, a government associate professor at Tarleton State University, when current President Joe Biden took over, his administration noticed that the Taliban were not living up to their side of the agreement. When the deadline for withdrawal drew near, the administration decided to push the withdrawal date back. Despite the signs that the Taliban was still not holding their end of the agreement, Biden’s administration decided it was time to leave.

On July 8, 2021, Biden delivered a speech promising the American people that the Afghanistan government is ready and that we were ready to begin the process of the full withdrawal. After this speech, a reporter asked Biden if a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan was inevitable.

 Biden responded, “No, it’s not.”

As the U.S. began its full withdrawal, the Taliban immediately went on the offensive and has already taken over most of Afghanistan. They have completely replaced the government and military that the U.S. spent the last 20 years building. Millions of dollars worth of U.S. military property was left in the country during the evacuations and is now in the hands of the terrorist group it was meant to defeat. Due to these reasons, Biden has received significant criticism over the withdrawal in Afghanistan from the public.

A soldier preparing to attack.
Photo Courtesy of Associated Press

Cogley said, “The vast majority of the criticism of the withdrawal is not concerning the withdrawal itself.”

The voting statistics support Cogley’s comment. The last three presidents of the U.S. had all stated during their campaign that they planned to end the war in Afghanistan during their term. Both President Obama and Trump made efforts to end the war, and both received praise from the American people when these efforts were made. Biden made it clear when he was running for president, that he would continue Trump’s agreement with the Taliban, and that he would be going forward with the full withdrawal.

“Many American and Afghan allies could not get to the airport to be withdrawn, billions of dollars of high-tech military equipment was left behind and has now fallen under Taliban control,” Cogley said. “Security vulnerabilities existed with a terrorist attack taking place at a gate to Kabul Airport resulting in the deaths of 13 U.S. service members and at least 169 Afghan civilians, and more Afghan civilians were caught on video naively trying to cling to the outside of airplanes and eventually falling to their deaths, further highlighting the chaotic manner of the withdrawal.”

Biden assured the U.S. citizens that the Afghanistan government was prepared to hold its ground against the Taliban and that the U.S. withdrawal would be a quick smooth operation. Instead, the Taliban immediately took over and replaced the government that the U.S. had spent the last 20 years building, while U.S. forces and allies struggled to leave the country that was being taken over by the enemy.

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