US President Joe Biden. Picture: BLOOMBERG/YURI GRIPAS
US President Joe Biden. Picture: BLOOMBERG/YURI GRIPAS

US President Joe Biden made 67 false and misleading statements in his first 100 days in office, according to The Washington Post’s fact-checking. But perhaps not on Afghanistan. Despite the suggestion that he has tacitly deviated from his campaign promise to bring US “combat troops” home from Afghanistan, his message on this one appears unambiguous.

Less than two weeks after Biden announced a September 11 deadline for the pullout of US troops from Afghanistan, the US has officially begun the withdrawal, earlier than planned. Given the understanding that the withdrawal is not condition-based, and 9/11 is a fixed deadline for the Biden administration, which is anxious to rid itself of the unaffordable burden of the 20-year war, sending the now about 3,500 US troops in Afghanistan home should not be difficult.

But that is if nothing substantially disrupts the pre-9/11 withdrawal process, or mounts overwhelming pressure on Biden to rethink his present decision. Since he has promised to “do it responsibly, deliberately, and safely”, he would have to reconsider should something happen to either considerably worsen the security situation in Afghanistan or pose a substantive threat to US interests. Nonetheless, it is good that the Americans have finally realised they have been waging a war they could never win, and the longer they stay the more they lose. The Pentagon favours avoiding boots-on-the-ground involvement after withdrawing. The White House no longer considers Afghanistan a US priority.

Regrettably, however, they are yet to learn the more important lesson the war should have taught them — it is time to reevaluate war as one of the US’ favourite tools of international intervention. Biden wasn’t completely honest when he claimed the US had “achieved” its objectives in Afghanistan. As in Iraq and Libya, the US may have succeeded in eliminating specific military targets but has never brought the promised peace and security, let alone established the Western model of democracy.

The Pentagon may never bother to count the number of civilian casualties the US invasion has caused. But the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said at least 35,500 Afghan civilians have died since 2009. And more than 71,000 Afghan civilians have been killed since 2001, according to Boston University’s Costs of War Project. /Beijing, April 28

China Daily

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