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President Joe Biden has ordered the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, 2021 — the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. We should consider this great news, especially considering many of us were not even alive when the War on Terror began.
But if you read into the tone of the national media — Biden is making a grave mistake. Articles appeared in the New York Times headlined, “‘Afghans Wonder ‘What About Us?’ as U.S. Troops Prepare to Withdraw” and “Will Afghanistan Become a Terrorism Safe Haven Once Again?”
One New York Times article had a subhead that read: “What will happen to women and minorities? Can the Afghan president hold on to power? These and other pressing questions face a fearful country as the United States military withdraws.”
Women’s rights, democracy and protecting minorities are, of course, important. However, one has to ask to what end are these questions provoked? Have we not been in Afghanistan for nearly 20 years?
What does victory look like?
Because the Taliban are still there, and no amount of troops will deter them. Biden himself said as much April 14, saying, “It was not true when we had 98,000 US troops on the ground, and it won’t be true keeping [the current] 2,500 troops on the ground.”
The simple truth is this narrative framed by the media and many members of the state apparatus perpetuates American imperialism in the name of identity politics and morality. Even many of Biden’s advisers raised objections, such as, “Biden faced pressure from leaders within the Pentagon and the intelligence agencies who opposed a withdrawal before the end of the year.”
If one follows their line of thinking, then should we invade every nation until human rights abuses no longer exist? Whatever criticisms one has of Biden, this is the correct choice, and he should follow through if he has any respect for the sovereignty of other peoples.
Speaking of it, the right to be free from American interference is strangely lacking in these articles, and our reason for being in Afghanistan is conveniently forgotten as well. We sent troops to catch Osama Bin Laden and wipe out Al-Qaeda because the Taliban would not cooperate in our effort to do so.
Al-Qaeda is estimated to have less than a thousand members in Afghanistan, and Bin Laden is dead.
To insist we stay ignores two key facts.
First, one of the major causes of the War on Terror and 9/11 was our own foreign policy. Second, we already support human rights violators within the region.
Bin Laden was explicit in that 9/11 was a response to American interference in the region and the presence of our troops in Saudi Arabia — the location of the two holiest sites to Islam — during the First Gulf War.
Does that make his actions justifiable? Absolutely not. However, it does mean the very thing used as a justification for this conflict, our foreign interference, is still ongoing. Despite moral pleas for our continued presence in Afghanistan, our track record in the region is far from stellar.
Not only have these conflicts killed hundreds of thousands of people, but one of our biggest allies in the region, Saudi Arabia, is a frequent human rights abuser. It constantly imprisons women’s rights advocates, has strong censorship laws and regularly uses beheading as a form of capital punishment.
If the media wants to portray the United States as some knight in shining armor that must protect human rights, then perhaps our actions should reflect that sentiment first.