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War expert weighs in on Biden’s Afghanistan withdrawal plan

2,500 U.S. troops will be removed from the region by the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
Published: Apr. 14, 2021 at 7:23 PM EDT
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WASHINGTON, D.C. (WITN) - Twenty years after the terrorist attacks on 9/11 sent U.S. troops off to what would become America’s longest war, the end is finally in sight.

President Joe Biden officially announced Wednesday that he would withdraw all 2,500 remaining U.S. troops from Afghanistan. He’s taking troops out by the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, four months after the deadline President Trump set initially.

“It just started this deteriorating spiral, which got us to where we are right now,” said Navin Bapat, chair of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Peace, War, and Defense curriculum.

It’s a move that’s been long-coming, experts say. Pres. Biden has supported the decision dating back to his time as Vice President, citing the waning American interest in maintaining a presence in the country with years of losses in Operation Enduring Freedom.

“It would be irresponsible and a mistake, I think, to say that this doesn’t have consequences. It does,” said Bapat. “And I don’t think that the Ghani government can survive without American support.”

It’s a move, Bapat says, that is likely to destabilize the country and will likely open the door for non-state actors to gain power.

“After there’s a withdrawal, there’s likely the Taliban will assert its dominance in the east and the south,” said Bapat. “I don’t know how far in the north they will get. They didn’t get that far prior to U.S. intervention, so it’s not clear what would happen there.”

But 20 years ago, when an increasing number of troops entered into the conflict culminating in about 98,000 soldiers during the height of the war in 2011, the goal was to keep terrorism at bay. A goal that is likely not yet accomplished, but Bapat believes the U.S. feels it is no longer necessary.

“The idea of negotiating with the Taliban in 2001, or 2002 even, was just unthinkable,” said Bapat. “But now, given where we are 20 years later and given that it doesn’t seem like a military victory is happening, now there is a willingness to negotiate.”

It’s a decision that will cause major global waves, Bapat added, for a region now preparing for what comes after the final U.S. boot leaves the ground.

“Most of the global implications have already been realized,” said Bapat. “It was clear that there was not going to be this significant victory over the Taliban, and that’s been true for I’d say ten years almost.”

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