President Joe Biden held a press conference earlier today, defending the speedy Afghan retreat. In a room filled with journalists, the president said that he is sticking by his decision to withdraw all significant military assets from afghan territory this year. Biden said that America is on track not only to complete their retreat this year but he highlighted that such efforts have not resulted in any American casualties. He also said that the final date of the retreat would be August 31st, a few weeks earlier than the initial September 11 date.
According to the President, the objectives of the military were accomplished as America went to Afghanistan to “get the terrorists who did 9/11” and “deliver justice to Osama Bin Laden”, which the president said had been accomplished. He said emphatically that America “did not go to Afghanistan to nation-build” and that it would be the final decision of the Afghan people to decide what type of government they will have.
Biden went on saying that America will continue supporting the Afghan government (including the sale of military equipment) and its people but said that any future in Afghanistan will need for “afghan leaders to come together” and said he has instructed Sectreaty Blinken to support the current attempts to work for a negotiated peace between representatives of the Afghan government and the Taliban insurgency.
The president also said that his administration will do all it can to support the Afghan nationals who provided pivotal support to the United States military during its years in the country. Saying that they have already approved 2,500 special immigrant visas to Afghan allies and that the US military has started an operation to move out of Afghanistan those whose visa application is still being processed, so they can wait for their visa to get approved safely.
Talibans advance as America finishes its Afghan retreat
The U.S hasty retreat has been simultaneously accompanied by an impressive advance of the Taliban forces all throughout the country, with hundreds of soldiers from the Afghan government fleeing the northern part of the country and going to the border of Tajikistan as Taliban forces make impressive gains in districts which were the stronghold of the “northern alliance” that was pivotal to topple the Taliban regime back in 2001.
The fact that the US military is already on its way out of Afghanistan has decimated the morale of the Afghan national army, which has depended on American support for its operational status. According to the long war journal of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, the Taliban already control far more districts than the central Afghan government, with the former having sway over 203 districts over the government’s 74.
These Taliban-controlled districts also account for a big chunk of the population, with at least 12 million afghans being under the direct control of the Taliban regime, while the Kabul-centered government rules over 10.7 million of its citizens.
Despite the gloomy reports coming from the afghan frontlines, Biden remains reticent to say that the war in Afghanistan has a foregone conclusion. As he said that the Afghan army is both well equipped and well-manned, with over 300,000 soldiers in uniform, saying that it is “highly unlikely” that the Taliban would be able to overrun the Afghan forces and own the whole country in the next few months.
He also rejected the comparisons between the American retreat in Vietnam with the current one in Afganisthan, as he said that the Taliban do not possess the same capabilities that North Vietnam did in 1975, saying that there is no chance that people will be evacuated from the roof of the American embassy in Kabul, as it happened during the fall of Saigon.
However, Biden accepted that the prospects of a single government being able to control the entirety of the Afghan territory also be “highly unlikely”, which is why he insists that the only way forward is that the government reaches a “modus vivendi” with the Taliban forces.
Is the mission truly accomplished?
During his press conference, Biden emphasized that the main objectives of the allied military operation were accomplished: Osama Bin-Laden is dead and there has not been any terrorist attack against the U.S homeland from Afghanistan since the invasion began.
However, despite the president’s clarifications that “terrorism is not emanating from that part of the world” there have been concerns that the hasty retreat from Afghanistan will undue such achievements in the short term.
An article published by the Editorial Board of the Wall Street Journal argues that by not committing to at least maintaining a small contingent of troops to defend the private contractors that man some of the Afghan air force resources (its biggest advantage against the Taliban) the Biden administration is weakening the ability of Kabul to held their ground.
The article also argues that while Al-Qaeda has been weakened after 20 years of military operations in Afghanistan, the links between the Taliban and the terror organization remain fairly strong (as confirmed by a UN report), a fact that could threaten American safety.
Whether the Kabul government is able to withstand the blistering Taliban offensive remains to be decided in the mountainous battlefields of Afghanistan, what is clear is one thing: The United States military will not play a significant part in this final act.