WJ students react to Afghanistan withdrawal

Sourish Dey

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Photo courtesy of flickr.com

U.S. soldiers on patrol in Afghanistan. This troop presence ended with President Biden’s withdrawal decision.

Even before most WJ students were born, the United States was fighting a war in Afghanistan. The U.S. successfully took the Taliban out of power and established a new government. For nearly two decades after that, Afghanistan was ruled by a U.S. backed government.

This newly installed democratic government granted the Afghan people expanded rights and liberties. However, it also faced problems of corruption and the U.S. was criticized for working with Afghan warlords.

WJ senior Ryan Hachey reflects on this perceived mixed success the U.S. had in Afghanistan.

“We were able to accomplish a lot of good, especially giving people, especially women, freedoms, and making the country itself just more equitable. But in terms of trying to develop this nation in Afghanistan, this kind of U.S. imperial stance, I don’t think that worked out and I don’t think that would’ve worked out,” Hachey said.

In April of this year, President Joe Biden announced that the U.S. would withdraw its forces in Afghanistan by September of 2021. By August, the Taliban had taken control of the entire country. These events have drawn strong reactions from people around the world as well as students at WJ.

Many have pointed out that in 2020, the Trump administration negotiated with the Taliban to try to end the war. The agreement both sides reached in February of 2020 would have had the U.S. military leave Afghanistan 14 months after the deal was made.

WJ junior Saima Waziri believes that the Trump administration put too much trust in the Taliban.

“I think it [the Trump administration’s deal with the Taliban] was a very bad deal. I mean it’s a terrorist group. How are you going to trust a terrorist group in the first place?” Waziri said.

Hachey points out how this deal impacted Biden’s decision regarding the withdrawal, while also acknowledging that the President still had some choices.

“[In his decision to withdraw] Biden was essentially trying to carry out what Trump had started but at the same time I think there were things Biden could have done that would have lessened the impact of the Taliban’s re-control of the region,” Hachey said.

When the U.S. entered Afghanistan, there was overwhelming support. In Congress, all but one member voted for the war authorization. In hindsight, however, many students at WJ and people across the country look back at the question of whether we should have entered with shallower support than that of the original congressional vote.

“I don’t think the war should have happened in the first place,” Waziri said.

Another question that is being reflected on is whether political pressures got in the way of good decision-making. Afghanistan has been a major foreign policy topic for the past two decades and now that the war is over, some reflect on how political pressure impacted the decisions made.

Senator Mitt Romney expressed a view that notions of stopping wars got in the way of making the right decisions as we left the war.

“There is a political slogan, ‘end endless wars.’ That doesn’t translate into a serious policy decision, and the real policy is this: You can’t, as one party, end a war. It takes two parties to end a war,” Romney said in an interview on CNN.

WJ senior Ryan Leal feels the political pressure has pulled in multiple directions.

“When it [the war in Afghanistan] started, there was a lot of political pressure to enter, and now there is a lot of political pressure to leave, and in the process, not much long lasting progress has been made,” Leal said.

Since the Taliban has taken control over all of Afghanistan, many Afghan people have sought to flee the country, especially those that helped the United States. The U.S. has stated that it will help the Afghans who helped the U.S. get out. Furthermore, the U.S. also stated that they believe that they have “leverage” over the Taliban to let those individuals leave. Despite this, many Afghans who helped the U.S. have faced brutal conditions at the hands of the Taliban.

“I have family in Afghanistan and they have friends that they know very well who helped the Americans and they have been killed,” Waziri said.

Despite the criticism, Biden called the withdrawal a success. He pointed out the number of people the U.S. was able to evacuate. However, just 25% of the American people think the withdrawal is going well, according to an August poll from the Morning Consult.
“From what I can see, the withdrawal kind of was a mess seeing the videos out of Kabul airport,” WJ sophomore Isaac Yebio said.

Leal shared the sentiment that the American people don’t think the withdrawal was a success, but felt there was another layer to consider.

“I don’t think a lot of people would agree with the statement that the withdrawal has been successful but, at the same time, I think it was something that was necessary,” Leal said.