Neo-Conservatives, Foreign Policy Establishment Push to Keep U.S. Military Involvement in Afghan War Going

Neo-Conservatives, Foreign Policy Establishment Push to Keep U.S. Military Involvement in Afghan War Going

Neo-conservatives and foreign policy establishment figures unsurprisingly blasted the Biden Administration for its plans to continue the Trump administration’s drawdown of American forces from Afghanistan, and they issued dire warnings if President Joe Biden were to go through with it.

House GOP Conference Chair Liz Cheney (R-WY) released a statement Tuesday that said the decision “abandons our global leadership position, and plays into our adversaries’ hands.”

“President Biden’s decision hands the Taliban and al Qaeda a propaganda victory, abandons our global leadership position, and plays into our adversaries’ hands,” said Cheney, a critic of former President Donald Trump and daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney.

Cheney — along with House Democrat Rep. Jason Crow (CO) — fought to prevent the Trump Administration from drawing down U.S. forces from Afghanistan, sponsoring legislation to make a drawdown more difficult.

Max Boot, a Never Trumper and champion of the 2003 Iraq War, penned an op-ed in the Washington Post that warned of a fall-of-Saigon scenario. “If Biden pulls out as planned in September absent a binding peace settlement, he will be consigning them to the same fate as our abandoned South Vietnamese allies. The fall of Kabul could be as ugly as the fall of Saigon,” he wrote.

He also warned of a “massive civil war” if U.S. troops leave, despite Afghanistan being involved in a civil war at least since 2001, if not since 1979. According to the Brown University’s Watson Institute, about 157,000 have been killed in the war since 2001, including more than 43,000 civilians. The war has cost the U.S. more than an estimated $2.2 trillion, according to the Institute.

Retired Army Gen. David Petraeus, who served as CIA director and commander of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, also slammed the decision. “Ending U.S. involvement in an endless war doesn’t end the endless war. It just ends our involvement. And I fear that this war is going to get worse,” he said at a recent event, according to Defense One.

A number of Republican senators also criticized the decision. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) echoed Cheney, calling the decision an “abdication” of American leadership, in a Senate floor speech Tuesday:

New reporting suggests the Biden administration plans to turn tail and abandon the fight in Afghanistan. Precipitously withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan is a grave mistake. It is a retreat in the face of an enemy that has not yet been vanquished, an abdication of American leadership.

Leaders in both parties, including me, offered criticism when the prior administration floated the concept of a reckless withdrawal from Syria and  Afghanistan. Those same voices in both parties should be equally concerned about the Biden administration’s announcement today.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), one of the Senate’s leading hawks, called the decision “a disaster in the making” and “dumber than dirt.”

“A full withdrawal from Afghanistan is dumber than dirt and devilishly dangerous. President Biden will have, in essence, cancelled an insurance policy against another 9/11,” he said in a statement, pushing for a residual counterterrorism force as an “insurance policy.”

At least one Republican issued a statement in support of Biden’s decision — libertarian Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY):

It’s great when we can find places to agree. I’m grateful President Biden is keeping President Trump’s plan to leave Afghanistan, even with a delay until fall. The time to bring our troops home is now or as soon as possible. Enough endless wars.

Democrats refrained from criticizing Biden’s decision, with only those in support of it issuing statements, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (NY), Dick Durbin (IL), Chris Coons (DE), Christopher Murphy (CT), Elizabeth Warren (MA), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

Coons criticized former President Donald Trump for trying to negotiate a U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan almost two years ago exactly.

“I agree that we should not fully withdraw from Afghanistan until we’ve got with conditions on the ground that would prevent it from becoming once again a haven for terrorists who might attack us as happened on 9/11,” he said on CBS News’ Face the Nation on April 9, 2019.

Although it seemed unclear whether Biden would adopt Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan, he ended up doing so after a few months of deliberation.

A Biden senior administration official said Tuesday the withdrawal would be completed by September 11, 2021 — the 20th anniversary of the war. Trump negotiated a May 1 withdrawal with the Taliban, but Biden officials suggested in recent weeks that deadline would not be met largely due to logistical reasons.

There are approximately 3,500 U.S. troops currently in Afghanistan. At the height of the war, which began in late 2001, there were more than 100,000 U.S. troops in the country.

U.S. troops first went into Afghanistan after al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden planned and masterminded the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks from a safe haven in the mountainous border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan. U.S. forces succeeded in quickly toppling the Taliban leadership in Afghanistan that granted bin Laden safe haven. However, as then-President George W. Bush turned the U.S.’s attention to the Iraq War, the Taliban regained strength and mounted an insurgency that has lasted over the last 20 years.

In an effort to end the war with a victory, the Obama administration ordered a troop surge to Afghanistan in 2009, but simultaneously announced a withdrawal by 2011 — which many experts argued undercut the surge by incentivizing the Taliban to wait the U.S. out. Obama ended up reversing his decision, leaving office in 2016 with 8,600 troops in the country.

Trump temporarily bumped up the number to 14,600, but by the end of his term, left office with approximately 3,500 in the country and a peace agreement with the Taliban to withdraw the remaining forces by May 1.

Experts from Defense Priorities who support ending the war pushed back against criticism that withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan meant that the U.S. was abdicating its global leadership role.

“The opposite is true. It just increases our global commitment to our security and that of our allies,” said Retired Army Lt. Col. Daniel L. Davis, senior fellow and military expert. Davis added:

Most people around the world recognize we should have been out Afghanistan a long time ago. They’re scratching their heads and wondering why would we continue year after year in a failing process that has no prospect of success…[Now] we’re going to be able to pay more attention to other things around the world.

Will Ruger, Trump’s nominee for U.S. ambassador of Afghanistan, said:

The goal of American foreign policy is not leadership…it’s to secure [U.S.] vital interests. You don’t aim towards leadership, you aim towards making us safer, providing for the conditions of our prosperity, and protecting our liberal democratic system at home.

George Washington University adjunct lecturer and Defense Priorities Policy Director Ben Friedman said, “Really I think these are just arguments made as a last ditch attempt to extend wars that people are afraid will end.”

Marine veteran Gil Barndollar added: “I don’t think we’re inspiring any admiration or even respect from most of our allies and partners by continuing a fruitless and intractable war in Afghanistan.”

Follow Breitbart News’s Kristina Wong on Twitter or on Facebook. 

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