[pjw] NEWS: Media declare Afghan war over (AP 8/30)

Peace and Justice Works pjw at pjw.info
Mon Aug 30 19:49:27 EDT 2021

Hi (and sorry for a second bulk email in one day):

Apparently, all US troops have now left Afghanistan-- as of about 12:30 PM 
today, a day early. I should be overjoyed, after all this has been a 
demand coming from our group from--- well, before the troops went in. But 
somehow I feel like the US is not done bombing, interfering in, and 
seeking some kind of foothold in Afghanistan.

We'll have a long discussion about the meaning of all this at our Iraq 
Affinity Group meeting on the 14th. In the meantime, we'll continue the 
weekly Friday rallies which began after the invasion in 2001.

There are several items in the Associated Press story below to take issue 
with, but they do note that (a) there are still a few hundred Americans 
there, (b) the Cost of War project estimates over 100,000 Afghans died, 
and (c) Congress didn't pay much attention to what was going on there 
until now.

I would say the same for the mainstream media-- except for some of the key 
developments listed in this story, they ignored that the US continued 
occupying the country and using airstrikes to kill people for years and 
years. Every weekend when I'm catching up on news I check one news site 
for the keywords "Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Pakistan, Yemen, 
Somalia and Venezuela." It's been very rare, until these last two weeks, 
for Afghanistan to pop up.

Also, as David Swanson pointed out during our livestream event, if you 
don't count, for instance, the US war on Native Americans, maybe you could 
call Afghanistan America's longest war (as AP does in their headline).

Anyway, hooray, I guess?
dan handelman
peace and justice works iraq affinity group

Last troops exit Afghanistan, ending America's longest war
    By ROBERT BURNS and LOLITA C. BALDOR  August 30, 2021 GMT

    WASHINGTON (AP) -- The United States completed its withdrawal from
    Afghanistan late Monday, ending America's longest war and closing a
    chapter in military history likely to be remembered for colossal
    failures, unfulfilled promises and a frantic final exit that cost the
    lives of more than 180 Afghans and 13 U.S. service members, some barely
    older than the war.

    Hours ahead of President Joe Biden's Tuesday deadline for shutting down
    a final airlift, and thus ending the U.S. war, Air Force transport
    planes carried a remaining contingent of troops from Kabul airport.
    Thousands of troops had spent a harrowing two weeks protecting a
    hurried and risky airlift of tens of thousands of Afghans, Americans
    and others seeking to escape a country once again ruled by Taliban

    In announcing the completion of the evacuation and war effort. Gen.
    Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, said the last planes took
    off from Kabul airport at 3:29 p.m. Washington time, or one minute
    before midnight in Kabul. He said a number of American citizens, likely
    numbering in "the very low hundreds," were left behind, and that he
    believes they will still be able to leave the country.

    Biden said military commanders unanimously favored ending the airlift,
    not extending it. He said he asked Secretary of State Antony Blinken to
    coordinate with international partners in holding the Taliban to their
    promise of safe passage for Americans and others who want to leave in
    the days ahead.

    The airport had become a U.S.-controlled island, a last stand in a
    20-year war that claimed more than 2,400 American lives.

    The closing hours of the evacuation were marked by extraordinary drama.
    American troops faced the daunting task of getting final evacuees onto
    planes while also getting themselves and some of their equipment out,
    even as they monitored repeated threats -- and at least two actual
    attacks -- by the Islamic State group's Afghanistan affiliate. A
    suicide bombing on Aug. 26 killed 13 American service members and some
    169 Afghans.

    The final pullout fulfilled Biden's pledge to end what he called a
    "forever war" that began in response to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001,
    that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, Washington and rural
    Pennsylvania. His decision, announced in April, reflected a national
    weariness of the Afghanistan conflict. Now he faces condemnation at
    home and abroad, not so much for ending the war as for his handling of
    a final evacuation that unfolded in chaos and raised doubts about U.S.

    The U.S. war effort at times seemed to grind on with no endgame in
    mind, little hope for victory and minimal care by Congress for the way
    tens of billions of dollars were spent for two decades. The human cost
    piled up -- tens of thousands of Americans injured in addition to the
    dead, and untold numbers suffering psychological wounds they live with
    or have not yet recognized they will live with.

    More than 1,100 troops from coalition countries and more than 100,000
    Afghan forces and civilians died, according to Brown University's Costs
    of War project.

    In Biden's view the war could have ended 10 years ago with the U.S.
    killing of Osama bin Laden, whose al-Qaida extremist network planned
    and executed the 9/11 plot from an Afghanistan sanctuary. Al-Qaida has
    been vastly diminished, preventing it thus far from again attacking the
    United States.

    Congressional committees, whose interest in the war waned over the
    years, are expected to hold public hearings on what went wrong in the
    final months of the U.S. withdrawal. Why, for example, did the
    administration not begin earlier the evacuation of American citizens as
    well as Afghans who had helped the U.S. war effort and felt vulnerable
    to retribution by the Taliban?

    It was not supposed to end this way. The administration's plan, after
    declaring its intention to withdraw all combat troops, was to keep the
    U.S. Embassy in Kabul open, protected by a force of about 650 U.S.
    troops, including a contingent that would secure the airport along with
    partner countries. Washington planned to give the now-defunct Afghan
    government billions more to prop up its army.

    Biden now faces doubts about his plan to prevent al-Qaida from
    regenerating in Afghanistan and of suppressing threats posed by other
    extremist groups such as the Islamic State group's Afghanistan
    affiliate. The Taliban are enemies of the Islamic State group but
    retain links to a diminished al-Qaida.

    The final U.S. exit included the withdrawal of its diplomats, although
    the State Department has left open the possibility of resuming some
    level of diplomacy with the Taliban depending on how they conduct
    themselves in establishing a government and adhering to international
    pleas for the protection of human rights.

    The speed with which the Taliban captured Kabul on Aug. 15 caught the
    Biden administration by surprise. It forced the U.S. to empty its
    embassy and frantically accelerate an evacuation effort that featured
    an extraordinary airlift executed mainly by the U.S. Air Force, with
    American ground forces protecting the airfield. The airlift began in
    such chaos that a number of Afghans died on the airfield, including at
    least one who attempted to cling to the airframe of a C-17 transport
    plane as it sped down the runway.

    By the evacuation's conclusion, well over 100,000 people, mostly
    Afghans, had been flown to safety. The dangers of carrying out such a
    mission while surrounded by the newly victorious Taliban and faced with
    attacks by the Islamic State came into tragic focus on Aug. 26 when an
    IS suicide bomber at an airport gate killed at least 169 Afghans and 13

    Speaking shortly after that attack, Biden stuck to his view that ending
    the war was the right move. He said it was past time for the United
    States to focus on threats emanating from elsewhere in the world.

    "Ladies and gentlemen," he said, "it was time to end a 20-year war."

    The war's start was an echo of a promise President George W. Bush made
    while standing atop of the rubble in New York City three days after
    hijacked airliners slammed into the twin towers of the World Trade

    "The people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!"
    he declared through a bullhorn.

    Less than a month later, on Oct. 7, Bush launched the war. The
    Taliban's forces were overwhelmed and Kabul fell in a matter of weeks.
    A U.S.-installed government led by Hamid Karzai took over and bin Laden
    and his al-Qaida cohort escaped across the border into Pakistan.

    The initial plan was to extinguish bin Laden's al-Qaida, which had used
    Afghanistan as a staging base for its attack on the United States. The
    grander ambition was to fight a "Global War on Terrorism" based on the
    belief that military force could somehow defeat Islamic extremism.
    Afghanistan was but the first round of that fight. Bush chose to make
    Iraq the next, invading in 2003 and getting mired in an even deadlier
    conflict that made Afghanistan a secondary priority until Barack Obama
    assumed the White House in 2009 and later that year decided to escalate
    in Afghanistan.

    Obama pushed U.S. troop levels to 100,000, but the war dragged on
    though bin Laden was killed in Pakistan in 2011.

    When Donald Trump entered the White House in 2017 he wanted to withdraw
    from Afghanistan but was persuaded not only to stay but to add several
    thousand U.S. troops and escalate attacks on the Taliban. Two years
    later his administration was looking for a deal with the Taliban, and
    in February 2020 the two sides signed an agreement that called for a
    complete U.S. withdrawal by May 2021. In exchange, the Taliban made a
    number of promises including a pledge not to attack U.S. troops.

    Biden weighed advice from members of his national security team who
    argued for retaining the 2,500 troops who were in Afghanistan by the
    time he took office in January. But in mid-April he announced his
    decision to fully withdraw and set September as a deadline for getting

    The Taliban then pushed an offensive that by early August toppled key
    cities, including provincial capitals. The Afghan army largely
    collapsed, sometimes surrendering rather than taking a final stand, and
    shortly after President Ashraf Ghani fled the capital, the Taliban
    rolled into Kabul and assumed control on Aug. 15.

    Some parts of the country modernized during the U.S. war years, but
    Afghanistan remains a tragedy, poor, unstable and with many of its
    people fearing a return to the brutality the country -- especially
    women and girls -- endured when the Taliban ruled from 1996 to 2001.

    The U.S. failures were numerous. It degraded but never defeated the
    Taliban and ultimately failed to build an Afghan military that could
    hold off the insurgents, despite $83 billion in U.S. spending to train
    and equip the army.

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