Since the beginning of the century, every American President has deployed US boots in Afghanistan. The result of this failed enterprise has been all over the news recently as one of the reasons for today’s roots in Afghanistan.
The American army has been involved in the death of thousands of US troops, Afghan soldiers, and civilians. Moreover, the US was unable to wipe out the Taliban and prevent a nationwide takeover completely. While the scary images in the media fill every screen, the blame game is on.
President Biden has gone on press conferences to explain the necessity of withdrawing the troops. This choice is based on the fact that the initial purpose of the war has long ago been lost.
In addition, Biden holds President Trump accountable for the current situation due to an agreement struck with the Taliban during his administration.
During this effort to ditch the blame, civilians are fleeing for their lives in Kabul and throwing babies over the airport’s walls, a situation that, according to the President, was inevitable.
However, the mayhem unleashed in Kabul’s airport has left Americans and the world shocked. The pictures and videos of Taliban fighters riding in top-notch Humvees with grenade launchers are embarrassing, saying the least.
They come as a sad portrayal of a 20-year-long mistake that has cost taxpayers billions of dollars and brought nothing but suffering to American families.
As you might imagine, every Commander In Chief has played a vital role in such an extended period. As a result, blaming an individual President for the chaos and death left in Afghanistan is complex. So, let’s take a step back and take a look at the bigger picture.
This article will analyze what part each President had in building up to today’s root in Afghanistan.
George W. Bush: The War On Terror Begins
The chilling photos and videos of the 9/11 attacks, planned and executed by al-Qaeda, have forever been fixed in everyone’s minds. For many, the fall of the World Trade Center and the loss of thousands of American lives on US soil marked the actual end of the 20th century.
However, it was the beginning of a new and terrifying era. Undoubtedly, the urge for retribution was massive, and the response was swift. Though the US Congress never officially declared war on Afghanistan, Bush’s sharp words were as threatening as they were clear.
The US would eliminate global terrorism no matter the cost. However, the Taliban, which governed most of Afghanistan, refused to hunt down and extradite Osama Bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders that were hiding in the country.
What continued as “a long-running campaign unlike any other we’ve seen,” said Bush himself. What followed these statements were a series of escalating war moves to track down and capture Bin Laden.
Nevertheless, not even he could have predicted the length and direness of the conflict. Less than a month after the attacks, on October 7 in 2001, the US army launched Operation Enduring Freedom.
After the leader of NATO, the US had many of its members support, particularly valuable was that of the UK. This first stage started with the deployment of 1,300 American troops and airstrikes centered on key al-Qaeda targets.
Nevertheless, everything escalated quickly in the following years. Despite the US army overthrowing the Taliban in many areas, Bin Laden escaped them and crossed Pakistan. The fighting was far from over as Taliban revolts happened continuously.
As a result, the American government kept sending more and more troops. By 2003, the Pentagon finally announced the worst was over. The US and its allies made an effort to rebuild and reshape the country into a democracy.
However, systematic corruption in the local government did away with any possible progress. Taliban fading forces fed on this and made a resurgence as many saw them as the only way out. In a war-torn nation, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise.
At the same time, as the situation slowly slid through the army’s fingers, the attention shifted to the war on Iraq. When Bush finished his first term, he had already deployed 20,000 men in Afghanistan.
Nevertheless, the Taliban continued making gains in the rural southern part of the nation. As his second term ended, 10,000 more soldiers were now in Afghan ground, for a total of 30,000. The Taliban was able to organize a successful uprising, though.
Barack Obama: A Chain Of Broken Promises
When he began his mandate, Obama was resilient to sending out more soldiers into Afghanistan. However, he gave in to pressure from generals and Biden, his VP, and increased troops again. Numbers increased by tens of thousands.
In return for this significant effort, the President pledged the deployment aimed at training the Afghan army. In that way, they could “transfer responsibility to the Afghans” and start a withdrawal in 2011.
Despite his promises, the number of soldiers totaled 100,000 in August 2010. However, the escalation came to an end when the Navy SEALs killed Bin Laden in May 2011. After this, the US moved away from its goal of transforming Afghanistan into a legitimate democracy.
The 44th President made, once again, announced US troops would leave Afghan ground by 2014. However, even though the numbers decreased, this wouldn’t be possible.
By the end of his second term in 2015, there were still 10,000 American soldiers based in Afghanistan. Following the advice of most of his war cabinet, Obama kept the troops because of the fragile situation. The President left the hand over in Hillary Clinton’s hands, a successor that never came.
Donald Trump: Trapped Between Nationalism And US Interests
Throughout his entire campaign, Trump decisively promised a total and quick return of American soldiers. However, upon taking the presidency, the promise faded.
The Taliban continued growing steadily, and an Islamic State came to be. President Trump handed over the troops command to the Pentagon.
One year and a half into his administration, Trump finally revealed no withdrawal shortly. Conditions, he said, made the task impossible to achieve. Any return of American troops would be subject to “conditions on the ground.” Negotiations needed to take place.
Zalmay Khalilzad, an Afghan US diplomat, was in charge of the talks with the Taliban. After some ups and downs, the Trump administration came to a deal in February 2020. The agreement called for a total withdrawal in exchange for a reduction of violence.
Nevertheless, Taliban forces continued gaining ground, which slowed US departure. However, they reached a deadline for May 2021, the beginning of what would be Trump’s second term.
Joseph Biden: The End Of America’s Intervention In Afghanistan?
On the day of Biden’s inauguration, only 2,500 US troops remained in Afghanistan. By now, it was more apparent than ever the US would never be able to set up a Western-like democracy.
Nevertheless, Biden announced that this unpopular conflict was coming to an end. Or at least US involvement in it. Several briefings showed that a total collapse of the Afghan government and a Taliban takeover was likely.
However, breaking Trump’s administration deal would endanger the remaining troops. After further talks, they agreed that no soldier would remain in Afghanistan after August 31.
The hasty withdrawal of the remaining forces allowed the Taliban to get hold of US equipment and bases. Moreover, as no one expected the government at such a high speed, evacuation became chaotic.
Due to this, Biden decided to send 6,000 more soldiers to help with the exiting. It’s only anyone’s guess whether Biden will take out every troop by August 31 or if a new escalation will begin.
The hasty and chaotic withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan has humiliated the American government on a world stage. However, as we’ve seen, today’s root in Afghanistan isn’t the responsibility of one President or party.
Only time will tell if America’s intervention in Afghan territory will finally come to an end 20 years after it started.