Biden’s hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan is a terrible mistake

The hand of US General Scott Miller is raised towards the camera. He is wearing his army uniform.
US Gen. Scott Miller, the the former top US commander in Afghanistan, waves upon his return, on July 14, 2021, at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland. Alex Brandon/Pool/AFP/Getty Images
  • The US is withdrawing far too quickly from Afghanistan without any plan in place for peace.
  • Maintaining a small presence in the country is important for counter-terrorism operations.
  • Women and women’s rights activists will be especially vulnerable now that the US has left.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
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Americans should be alarmed and ashamed about how we are hastily leaving Afghanistan. President Joe Biden chose to unilaterally withdraw our remaining forces from the country without a plan, process, or even the faintest possibility for peace in place.

I get it. We have fought there for too long. We have lost too much blood and treasure over the last two decades. There are a lot of arguments for ending our military campaign against the Taliban. Yet, if I’m being honest, it seems that the main driver is to score some short-term political points. Biden gets to claim the mantle of the president who finally “ended the war.” Yet, the decision will only begin a new chapter of dangers, especially for women and girls around the globe.

A small, steady presence

The United States may not be able to eradicate the extremist group from every corner of the country, but at the very least we could keep the threat they posed to us and the Afghan government to a manageable minimum. The military had already reduced our troop presence to under 2,500. Last year there were just three combat deaths, this year there have been none.

There are more American troops now in Spain than there are in Afghanistan. That small footprint at least enabled us to continue counter-terrorism operations, secure the capital and other major cities, and create conditions for steady economic growth. Importantly, it also preserved certain fundamental freedoms and rights. Why would we give all of that up?

While the Biden Administration was forced to change course on evacuating our local staff from Afghanistan, there are a lot of others who will be left behind. Most concerning are those who stood up for women’s rights and girls’ education during America’s time in Afghanistan. Over 90 people were recently killed at a girls school in Kabul. There are undoubtedly going to be many more lost.

These advocates may not have worked for the United States government, but they certainly aligned themselves with our ideals. They are now left to fend for themselves. During the Taliban’s time in power, women in Afghanistan faced draconian restrictions and those are likely to return in the absence of American forces. Some women’s rights advocates may be able to flee, but others are bound to pay an unimaginable price. Many Afghan women and girls are already sounding the alarm. But, the harm will not be contained to only that country. Many around the world will look on with worry, wondering what could happen if they too fight for their rights.

In taking this reckless action, Biden is telling extremists everywhere that the United States does not have the strength and stamina to sustain engagements against a stubborn adversary. They just have to fight hard enough and wait long enough. Ultimately, we will go home without having achieved our stated objectives.

America’s abrupt abandonment of Afghanistan is a serious cause for concern for parents of young girls in Indonesia or a women’s rights activist in Egypt. Even if there isn’t a conflict in their country, the way America chose to leave Afghanistan will not go unnoticed. Are people in a position to empower women and girls going to be willing to take risks after seeing what will inevitably happen in Afghanistan? Many are likely to judge that the United States is no longer dependable enough to join efforts at advancing gender equality.

America asked Afghan women and girls to be brave. The government loudly heralded the start of every new program that created a more equitable country. Unfortunately, we evidently lack the same kind of courage that was so often seen on the streets of Kabul and Kandahar. President Biden opted for the easy way out. It will now make achieving progress on the status of women worldwide much, much harder.