It appears the certain elements of the Republican Party still can’t get on board with ending the nearly 20-year war in Afghanistan. Former President George W. Bush recently criticized the Biden administration’s plans to withdraw American troops. However, his criticisms appear out of step with a country that, while divided, agrees on one issue: The United States has no valid reason to keep soldiers in the region.
Bush Opposes Afghanistan Withdrawal
During an interview with Deutsche Welle on Wednesday, July 14, the former president argued that bringing the troops home would be a “mistake” that would be “unbelievable bad and sad.” He insisted that Afghan women would be subject to “unspeakable harm” and also raised the issue of translators and others who assisted American troops. He speculated that interpreters and other individuals who allied with the U.S would be “left behind to be slaughtered by these very brutal people, and it breaks my heart.”
President Joe Biden in April declared that his administration would end combat operations in Afghanistan by Sept. 11. Army General Austin Miller – the top U.S. general overseeing operations in the country – stepped down earlier in July, which signaled an end to military operations in the region. Other NATO members have already brought their troops home. According to Deutsche Welle:
“At the end of June, Germany announced it had withdrawn all troops from the country and closed its consulate general in Mazar-i-Sharif in northern Afghanistan.
Italy has also declared the end of its mission in Afghanistan and Poland has already brought all its troops home.”
The United Kingdom also announced that it would remove its troops from Afghanistan. Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned that the Taliban might retake parts of the country after NATO forces withdraw. However, British Defence Minister Ben Wallace said that the U.K. would work with the Taliban if they manage to take over the country. Recent developments suggest that Johnson is correct in his assertion. The Taliban claims to have retaken 85% of the region. The Foundation for Defense of Democracies noted that the terrorist group seized 10% of the country just in the last week.
What Do the American People Think?
The withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan has been popular amongst Americans on both sides of the political divide. Indeed, one of former President Donald Trump’s most agreed-upon objectives was to draw down military activity in the country. Moreover, according to a poll conducted in May, about two-thirds of Americans indicated they either “strongly” or “somewhat” support bringing the troops home. “In the survey, 38 percent said they strongly support bringing the troops home by the Biden administration’s announced deadline, while 28 percent said they somewhat support doing so,” according to The Hill.
Other high-profile Americans have repudiated Bush’s remarks on the matter. Mike Walker, the former acting secretary of the Army and deputy director of FEMA, tweeted: “Of course, Bush forgets we have been in Afghanistan for 20 years because he looked the other way in 2003 and invaded Iraq before the job was done in Afghanistan.” Jesse Lee, a former senior advisor to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and former special aide for President Barack Obama, also chided Bush. “The reason Afghanistan is where it is 20 years later is that Bush invaded, then abandoned it halfway through to invade Iraq. There isn’t any real historical debate on this,” he tweeted.
Despite the wishes of President Bush and others who hope to continue military involvement with Afghanistan, it appears the initiative to end the war will proceed. At this moment, it seems evident that there is not sufficient political will in the U.S. to keep troops stationed in the region without a clear objective. If Biden fulfills his promise, it will signal not only an end to the war, but the end of an era that found its horrendous origin on Sept. 12, 2001.