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President Joe Biden attends the dignified transfer of the remains of fallen service members at Dover Air Force Base

U.S. President Joe Biden attends the dignified transfer of the remains of fallen service members at Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Delaware, August, 29, 2021. (Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

Progressives Credit Courage of Biden, Lifelong Hawk, to End Afghan War

"He may have been wrong about Iraq in 2003, but Biden is right about Afghanistan in 2021."

Julia Conley

Anti-war advocates on Tuesday credited President Joe Biden with finally ending the U.S. war in Afghanistan, even as many expressed surprise that it was ultimately the former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a lifelong proponent of U.S. military intervention, to end the 20-year quagmire.

The then-senator backed the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and voted for the authorization to start the Iraq War in 2003. In the years prior to the U.S. attack on Iraq, Biden claimed that "taking Saddam down"—not diplomacy—was the only way to ensure there were no weapons of mass destruction in the country.

"It takes more courage in Washington to end a war than to start one."
—Trita Parsi, Quincy Institute

But two decades later, wrote MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan in a commentary Monday night after the last U.S. soldiers left Kabul, Biden successfully "stood up to the generals," Beltway pundits, and Republicans who urged him to stay.

While Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called the withdrawal "one of the worst foreign policy decisions in American history" on Sunday after ISIS-K claimed responsibility for a bombing near Kabul's airport, Hasan wrote, "President Joe Biden didn’t lose this war."

"It was lost in October 2001, when President George W. Bush refused to accept the Taliban’s offer to hand over Osama bin Laden to a neutral third country, and in December 2001, when then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld refused to accept Taliban surrender terms," Hasan added. "He may have been wrong about Iraq in 2003, but Biden is right about Afghanistan in 2021."

Biden reportedly showed impatience with the continued war in Afghanistan while serving as vice president from 2008 to 2016, telling President Barack Obama not to let U.S. military leaders "jam" him, as Hasan wrote. 

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley, both reportedly urged the president to maintain a military presence of 2,500 troops in Afghanistan, but Biden refused to further delay the end of the war.

"No one wants to say that we should be in Afghanistan forever, but they insist now is not the right moment to leave," Biden said in April amid pressure from the generals. "So when will it be the right moment to leave? One more year? Two more years? Ten more years?"

Biden's actions in the last two weeks, as critics in Washington and the press fiercely attacked him over the Taliban's rapid takeover of Afghanistan following the beginning of the U.S. withdrawal, prove "it takes more courage in Washington to end a war than to start one," Trita Parsi of the Quincy Institute tweeted on Monday.

The president remained resolute as the political press criticized him over the process of evacuating Americans and vulnerable Afghans and the disturbing images of the Taliban's takeover. 

"It was time to end a 20-year war," Biden told reporters last week.

The president deserves credit for "getting out despite the chorus of Washington establishment howls lamenting the war’s end," tweeted Ben Friedman, policy director for Defense Priorities. 

While condemning the decision by Biden and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to close the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan and calling for the administration to strive for diplomacy, CODEPINK co-founder Medea Benjamin said late Monday, the "U.S. military is FINALLY out of Afghanistan. And that is good."

In a statement last week, CODEPINK said that if Biden had re-escalated the war instead of sticking to a complete withdrawal, "an even greater number of U.S. and Afghan people would have likely been killed in the ongoing conflict and stalemate that has been America’s longest war."

"While we hold in our hearts all those who lost loved ones over the past 20 years," the group said, "we remain grateful that America's longest war has finally ended."

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