Progressive lawmakers and peace activists on Tuesday welcomed news that President Joe Biden plans to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by September 11, a move that if accompanied by an end to U.S.-led airstrikes would end the longest war in American history.
"Let's make sure the U.S. does not continue to fight there via other means—CIA, contractors, airwars, drones."
—Medea Benjamin, CodePink
Although Biden's decision—which is expected to be formally announced this week—means the U.S. will miss the May 1 withdrawal deadline set by former President Donald Trump during peace negotiations with the Taliban last year, progressive Democrats nevertheless hailed the impending end of a nearly 20-year war that has killed tens of thousands of Afghan civilians and around 3,500 coalition troops.
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.)—who cast the lone dissenting vote in a Congress whose members voted 518-1 to authorize the war following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States—called Biden's imminent announcement "incredibly encouraging news."
Biden "will be fulfulling his promise to finally end the longest war in America's history," Lee tweeted. "This is such a critical step toward ending forever wars and ushering in global peace."
Incredibly encouraging news that @POTUS will be fulfilling his promise to finally end the longest war in America's history.
This is such a critical step toward ending forever wars and ushering in global peace. https://t.co/HA77uRTmeK
— Rep. Barbara Lee (@RepBarbaraLee) April 13, 2021
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who in 2001 voted to approve the war, published a statement applauding Biden for "making the brave and right decision" to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan. He asserted that "we must also make sure that in the future the United States uses military force only when necessary to protect our national security and when the objective is clear and achievable, and with the informed consent of the American people and the authorization of Congress."
I applaud President Biden for making the brave and right decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan and bring an end to the longest war in our country’s history. pic.twitter.com/kDHp566tVI
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) April 13, 2021
Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), who entered Congress in 2017, also released a statement praising the president's expected move.
"I applaud President Biden for achieving an impossibility here in Washington: ending a forever war," he wrote. "It is an act of extraordinary political courage and vision. After 20 years, thousands of lives lost, and trillions of dollars spent, we are finally bringing home our troops from Afghanistan."
"President Biden campaigned on this popular policy and is now delivering on that promise," said Khanna. "I'm hopeful this policy change, in accordance with U.S. commitments under the Doha agreement, will help bring peace to a country that for decades has been ravaged by war," he added, referring to the Trump-Taliban deal.
"Only through diplomacy and negotiations will the war in Afghanistan, which has taken the lives of thousands of civilians, come to an end," said Khanna.
I applaud @POTUS for achieving what we thought was an impossibility here in Washington: ending a forever war.
After 20 years, thousands of lives lost, and trillions of dollars spent, we are finally bringing home our troops from Afghanistan. pic.twitter.com/ndMMTX732Y
— Rep. Ro Khanna (@RepRoKhanna) April 13, 2021
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Anti-war groups and peace activists echoed the progressive lawmakers' praise. In a statement, Win Without War director Stephen Miles said that "if today's reports are true, President Biden is doing the right thing and taking a big step towards ending our nation's endless wars."
For 20 long years, the United States has waged endless, fruitless, and destructive war in Afghanistan. With today's decision, President Biden recognizes what the people of the United States and Afghanistan have long known: we simply cannot bomb our way to peace.
We commend the Biden administration for their reported decision, but we also recognize that this did not come from the top alone. This is the result of decades of grassroots pressure fighting to end endless war and put peace first.
This decision must just be the beginning, not the end, of a total rethinking of the U.S. approach to conflict. Combat troops must not simply be replaced with different military tactics: covert operations, private contractors, or drone warfare. After four decades of violence going back to U.S. support for the mujahideen, through our two decades of occupation, we owe it to the Afghan people to support their struggle for peace.
"The tides are shifting," added Miles. "Now, we must seize on this momentum to end the era of endless war for good."
After nearly 20 years of war on #Afghanistan, Biden's impending announcement regarding the withdrawal of US troops is both welcomed & long-overdue.
— CODEPINK (@codepink) April 13, 2021
CodePink co-founder Medea Benjamin agreed, tweeting: "Let's make sure the U.S. does not continue to fight there via other means—CIA, contractors, airwars, drones."
Imperialists in the U.S. Congress—both Republican and Democrat—on the other hand condemned the prospect of the U.S. pullout from Afghanistan. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) said she was "very disappointed" by the move, while Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) waxed alliterative in his condemnation, saying that "a full withdrawal from Afghanistan is dumber than dirt and devlishly dangerous."
The same people who thought we left Vietnam too soon are going to be out in force today talking about how two decades is somehow too soon in Afghanistan.
— Stephen Miles (@SPMiles42) April 13, 2021