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Joe Biden

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about the war in Afghanistan in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C. on July 8, 2021. (Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

Progressives, Peace Groups Welcome Biden Announcement of US Afghan Withdrawal Date

However, some noted that not all U.S. troops are leaving, and CodePink addressed Biden's remarks on China with a warning: "Don't let the end of one war be the start of another one!"

Brett Wilkins

Peace activists joined progressive U.S. lawmakers Thursday in welcoming President Joe Biden's announcement that most American military operations in Afghanistan will cease by the end of August, even as Taliban battlefield victories raise the specter of a return to fundamentalist rule over the war-weary nation.

"Two decades of U.S. war and occupation did not and will not bring peace to Afghanistan."
—Kate Kizer,
Win Without War

Speaking at the White House, Biden declared Thursday that "I will not send another generation of Americans to war in Afghanistan, with no reasonable expectation of achieving a different outcome."

Two generations of American troops—2,312 of whom were killed—have now fought in Afghanistan during a nearly 20-year U.S.-led war that has claimed hundreds of thousands of Afghan lives and cost trillions of dollars.

While the U.S. defeat and the Taliban's resurgence in Afghanistan means there will be no pomp nor fanfare marking the end of the longest war in American history, progressive U.S. lawmakers applauded Biden's move.

In a statement, the Congressional Progressive Caucus said, "We commend President Biden for fulfilling his commitment to ending the longest war in American history, making it clear that there is no military solution in Afghanistan."

"This tragic war has claimed the lives of thousands of American service members and countless Afghans," the statement added. "It has also distracted the United States from urgent domestic and international challenges, and it is past time to bring our troops home."

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), the only member of Congress to vote against the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) that underpinned the war in Afghanistan, thanked Biden for keeping his promise to withdraw U.S. troops from the country, calling the president's move "a crucial step toward ending our forever wars."

Peace groups also cheered Biden's announcement. In a statement, Win Without War policy director Kate Kizer said:

Ending the U.S. occupation and withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan is the right decision today, the right decision a year ago, and the right decision 10 years ago. Two decades of U.S. war and occupation did not and will not bring peace to Afghanistan. The recent uptick in violence does not change that, but rather makes robust, coordinated diplomacy to deescalate the situation all the more urgent.

For 20 years, the United States has been at war in Afghanistan. For 20 years, proponents of endless war have claimed that if we could just stay a little longer, if we could only drop a few more bombs, we may finally "win." But 20 years of experience have proven that to be an utter fallacy. And 20 years of experience have proven to people in the United States—across party lines, generations, and communities—that endless war is not the solution, but the problem.

"There is simply no military solution to what is now a four decades-long conflict and the president's follow-through on his promise to withdraw reflects that reality," said Kizer. "Diplomatic negotiations, transitional justice, and peace-building are the only tools that will bring us any closer to peace in Afghanistan."

Noting that Biden on Thursday said the Afghan drawdown will allow the U.S. to focus on the "strategic competition with China and other nations," the women-led anti-war group CodePink tweeted, "Don't let the end of one war be the start of another one!"

While the vast majority of U.S. troops are leaving Afghanistan, the Pentagon announced last month that around 650 of them will remain in Afghanistan to provide security for American diplomats. Limited U.S. military attacks are likely to continue there as well.

During a July 2 press conference, Biden attempted to brush aside questions about continued U.S. warfare in Afghanistan. When asked if he was concerned about the very real possibility of a Taliban takeover, and if U.S. forces would provide air support in defense of the Afghan government, the president first replied, "I want to talk about happy things, man."

Pressed, Biden conceded that "we have worked out an over-the-horizon capacity that we can be value added, but the Afghans are going to have to be able to do it themselves with the Air Force they have, which we're helping them maintain."

On Tuesday, Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby held a press briefing at which he reaffirmed earlier statements from Biden and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III that the administration plans to maintain a robust "over-the-horizon" capacity if needed in Afghanistan.

What exactly does that mean? In April, Gen. Kenneth "Frank" McKenzie of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) explained to members of the Senate Armed Services Committee that the Pentagon could still carry out attacks "ranging from precision strike[s] at very long range, to on-the-ground options, should those prove necessary."

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