Twenty years ago, American troops invaded Afghanistan to defeat the forces behind the attacks on 9/11. Over the last two decades the nation invested nearly $1 trillion into the war, American lives were lost, 300,000 Afghan soldiers and police were equipped and trained and the framework for democracy was established.
Over the weekend, the White House released a statement saying, “One more year, or five more years, of U.S. military presence would not have made a difference if the Afghan military cannot or will not hold its own country.”
Meanwhile some concerns about the drawdown and what could be a ripple effect here at home are being debated.
The images of Taliban rivals moving into Kabul and the center of government are being viewed from the comfort of American homes. But for Purple Heart recipient Christopher McCarthy, he’s seen the uncertainty of war in Afghanistan up close and in person.
”Over there, it’s not what you can legally have. It’s what you can defend,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy deployed to Afghanistan four times. His 2004 tour as a Marine Corps infantry unit leader placed him on the border and in caves on the hunt for Osama Bin Laden.
“If we allow the Taliban to take control in Afghanistan we will see another group that will pop up in Afghanistan with the resources and the people to attack us again,” he said. “It’s inevitable because these people - their belief - they see us as infidels.”
McCarthy said it’s difficult to witness the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan and equally difficult to see the finger pointing in the U.S.
”That this is because of the Biden administration, or the Trump administration, or the Obama administration or the Bush administration — you can’t point a finger at one administration and say its their fault. Every single administration has done the same thing where they’re not listening to the people on the ground,” he said.
McCarthy also doesn’t believe America could reverse centuries of Afghan culture with 20 years of boots on the ground intervention.
“The job is not done,” he said. “We can’t just say we give you the template — now good luck.”
In an Aug. 14 statement on Afghanistan, President Joe Biden said:
Over the past several days, I have been in close contact with my national security team to give them direction on how to protect our interests and values as we end our military mission in Afghanistan.
First, based on the recommendations of our diplomatic, military, and intelligence teams, I have authorized the deployment of approximately 5,000 U.S. troops to make sure we can have an orderly and safe drawdown of U.S. personnel and other allied personnel, and an orderly and safe evacuation of Afghans who helped our troops during our mission and those at special risk from the Taliban advance.
Second, I have ordered our Armed Forces and our Intelligence Community to ensure that we will maintain the capability and the vigilance to address future terrorist threats from Afghanistan.
Third, I have directed the Secretary of State to support President Ghani and other Afghan leaders as they seek to prevent further bloodshed and pursue a political settlement. Secretary Blinken will also engage with key regional stakeholders.
Fourth, we have conveyed to the Taliban representatives in Doha, via our Combatant Commander, that any action on their part on the ground in Afghanistan, that puts U.S. personnel or our mission at risk there, will be met with a swift and strong U.S. military response.
Fifth, I have placed Ambassador Tracey Jacobson in charge of a whole-of-government effort to process, transport, and relocate Afghan Special Immigrant Visa applicants and other Afghan allies. Our hearts go out to the brave Afghan men and women who are now at risk. We are working to evacuate thousands of those who helped our cause and their families.
That is what we are going to do. Now let me be clear about how we got here.
America went to Afghanistan 20 years ago to defeat the forces that attacked this country on September 11th. That mission resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden over a decade ago and the degradation of al Qaeda. And yet, 10 years later, when I became President, a small number of U.S. troops still remained on the ground, in harm’s way, with a looming deadline to withdraw them or go back to open combat.
Over our country’s 20 years at war in Afghanistan, America has sent its finest young men and women, invested nearly $1 trillion dollars, trained over 300,000 Afghan soldiers and police, equipped them with state-of-the-art military equipment, and maintained their air force as part of the longest war in U.S. history. One more year, or five more years, of U.S. military presence would not have made a difference if the Afghan military cannot or will not hold its own country. And an endless American presence in the middle of another country’s civil conflict was not acceptable to me.
When I came to office, I inherited a deal cut by my predecessor—which he invited the Taliban to discuss at Camp David on the eve of 9/11 of 2019—that left the Taliban in the strongest position militarily since 2001 and imposed a May 1, 2021 deadline on U.S. Forces. Shortly before he left office, he also drew U.S. Forces down to a bare minimum of 2,500. Therefore, when I became President, I faced a choice—follow through on the deal, with a brief extension to get our Forces and our allies’ Forces out safely, or ramp up our presence and send more American troops to fight once again in another country’s civil conflict. I was the fourth President to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan—two Republicans, two Democrats. I would not, and will not, pass this war onto a fifth.
On Aug. 15 the Department of State and Department of Defense issued a joint statement:
At present we are completing a series of steps to secure the Hamid Karzai International Airport to enable the safe departure of U.S. and allied personnel from Afghanistan via civilian and military flights. Over the next 48 hours, we will have expanded our security presence to nearly 6,000 troops, with a mission focused solely on facilitating these efforts and will be taking over air traffic control. Tomorrow and over the coming days, we will be transferring out of the country thousands of American citizens who have been resident in Afghanistan, as well as locally employed staff of the U.S. mission in Kabul and their families and other particularly vulnerable Afghan nationals. And we will accelerate the evacuation of thousands of Afghans eligible for U.S. Special Immigrant Visas, nearly 2,000 of whom have already arrived in the United States over the past two weeks. For all categories, Afghans who have cleared security screening will continue to be transferred directly to the United States. And we will find additional locations for those yet to be screened.