On Aug. 30, the United States completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan after a 20-year long war that killed thousands of American troops as well thousands of Afghani civilians. Within two weeks of American efforts to leave the country began, the Taliban had seized control of many of the country’s prominent cities.
The fallout from this disaster of a military operation has been felt across the world, with many people trying to find a scapegoat to blame for the Taliban’s swift victory. President Joe Biden blames the pullout plan he inherited from former President Donald Trump for what’s going on, while conservative politicians and pundits find more fault in the current administration.
In February of 2020, Trump met with the Taliban and had agreed to withdraw from Afghanistan by May 1, 2021, if the terrorist organization orchestrated a peace negotiation with the established government. Importantly, the Trump administration decided to leave actual Afghani state officials out of these peace talks, marginalizing their involvement in their own peace negotiations. This is the setup to the chaotic scenes we’ve heard about at the airport in Kabul and the overrunning of the country’s established government.
Biden inherited this deal that had been made with the Taliban when he entered office, but that does not mean he shares no blame for what is happening in Afghanistan. Biden had the authority to go back on these talks with the Taliban, but instead opted to push back the American pullout by a month, a choice that obviously had little impact in terms of maintaining peace in the region. However, it’s also unfair for people to expect Biden to bring stability back to a region, especially with only a few months between taking office and the pullout from Afghanistan.
However, even after our exit from Afghanistan, the U.S. has continued to cause pain, with the Pentagon executing a drone strike on Aug. 29 that killed 10 civilians, including 7 children and no terrorists. The Department of Defense had defended this “righteous strike” previously, once again showing how the American people are left in the dark and explicitly lied to time and time again during these wars.
Biden has also said that he was planning to pull out of Afghanistan at some point in his presidency, so the plan he had inherited from Trump still went with his policy. However, when people look at the situation in Afghanistan, it’s all too easy to blame a single administration for the loss of life going on. However, the breakdown of the Afghani government and the Taliban's takeover of the country is not solely Trump or Biden’s fault, but instead 50 plus years of interventionist policy in the Middle East coming back to bite us.
From 1979 to 1989, as part of Operation Cyclone under former President Jimmy Carter, the CIA gave Afghan mujahideen fighters (who would go on to form the ranks of the Taliban) weaponry and training in guerilla warfare. This, originally a plot to push the USSR out of Afghanistan, has now established the Taliban with trained fighters and millions of dollars in weapons provided by the U.S. Effectively, the American government funded the initial fighters who would go on to fight in the Taliban.
Then, as anarchy reigned in the Middle East, the Taliban took root and established a fighting force. The 9/11 attacks and the subsequent war on terror under George W. Bush’s administration only served to further destabilize a region that already lacks a common cultural identity due to the many ethnic groups that live there.
This is a brief overview of a complicated region with a storied history, but it’s important to realize that it’s irresponsible and ignorant to try and blame the Taliban’s victory in Afghanistan on a singular president. We are where we are due to years upon years of meddling in the Middle East and bad policy, not because Biden left when Trump said we would.