• Rania Khalek

US Pours Gasoline on Afghan Conflict on Its Way Out

Updated: Jun 5, 2021

Twenty years ago the US launched a war on Afghanistan. Four presidents, $2 trillion, and more than 200,000 Afghan lives later, the longest war in US history may finally be coming to an end without anything the US can call a victory and nothing Afghans can call stability or a future.

So what was this war even about? How did it start in the first place? Is it really ending? What will it mean for Afghans? And what accounts for the hawkish backlash to ending a war that serves no apparent purpose?


President Joe Biden sent shockwaves throughout Washington when he announced the US would be withdrawing troops from Afghanistan by the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. “I’ve concluded that it’s time to end America’s longest war. It’s time for American troops to come home,” he said.

His liberal base is trying to play it up as proof of Biden’s progressive credentials, but it’s more complicated than that. Meanwhile, the chorus of war hawks predictably lost it.

Max Boot, who never met an American war that he didn’t like (nor one he wanted to end), wrote two op-eds warning against withdrawal. The hawkish Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen expressed fears that “a US withdrawal will create a vacuum in the country that China, Russia or Iran will fill.” Retired general and former National Security Advisor HR McMaster, one of the “soldier scholars” whom Americans revere, also condemned the withdrawal as “an extraordinary reversal of morality” that America is “going to look back on with shame.” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham called Biden’s withdrawal “dumber than dirt,” warning that “the result of this decision today by President Biden is to cancel an insurance policy that in my view would prevent another 9/11.” Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton, two former secretaries of state, both expressed opposition to the withdrawal, with Rice reportedly warning that the US would likely have to return to Afghanistan.

This sudden concern for the fate of Afghan women was echoed across mainstream media, with Republican Senator John Barrasso telling MSNBC, “This is going to turn the clock back on the women of Afghanistan, girls trying to go to school to get an education will once again be killed.”


The end to the American invasion and occupation of Afghanistan is long overdue, but the way it is being done will likely only perpetuate the suffering of Afghans.

One longtime expert described the deal as so intrusive and imposing it treats Afghanistan as a colony of the US.

Biden is implementing the February 2020 deal struck in Doha between Zalmay Khalilzad, Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation at the US State Department, and Mullah Baradar, the Taliban Deputy’s Commander for Political Affairs. It was called the “Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan”, although nobody believes it will bring peace to a country at war for over forty years. At the same time, the US also signed a separate deal with the Afghan government entitled the “Joint Declaration between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the United States of America for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan.” Meanwhile the intra-Afghan talks between the Taliban and the government