Almost Everything Biden Said About Ending the Afghanistan War Was a Lie
By Sonali Kolhatkar* –
Independent Media Institute
Americans hailed the announcement that the U.S. would withdraw troops from
Afghanistan after nearly two decades of war, President Biden left out the most
important details about the war and how it will in fact continue.
President Joe Biden, in announcing an ostensible end to the
U.S. war in Afghanistan, is continuing his streak of paying eloquent lip
service to progressive causes while maintaining the implied status quo. In
address from the White House on April 14, Biden said,
“it’s time to end America’s longest war. It’s time for American troops to come
home.” But just a day later, the New
York Times reported without a hint of irony that “the Pentagon,
American spy agencies and Western allies are refining plans to deploy a less
visible but still potent force in the region.” This means we are ending the
war, but not really.
U.S. military leaders and generals gave a much more accurate
assessment of the war’s future in the days following Biden’s speech. Former CIA
officer and counterterrorism expert Marc Polymeropoulos explained to the Times,
“What we are really talking about are how to collect intelligence and then act
against terrorist targets without any infrastructure or personnel in the
country other than essentially the embassy in Kabul.” In other words, the U.S.
wants to wage a remotely run war against Afghanistan, as it has done in other
nations like Yemen, Syria, and Somalia.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin added his two cents,
underscoring the U.S.’s ability to wage war without troops on the ground,
saying, “There’s probably not a space on the globe that the United States and
its allies can’t reach.” Marine
Corps Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr. echoed this sentiment in ominous terms
on April 20 at a House Armed Services Committee hearing, saying, “if we’re
going to strike something [in Afghanistan], we’re going to strike it in concert
with the law of armed conflict and the American way of war.”
One may suppose that this “American way of war” is unlike a
traditional war where troops occupy a country—a type of war that is generally
deeply unpopular with the U.S. public. By publicly promising a withdrawal of
troops while quietly continuing airstrikes, Biden ensures that U.S. violence
against Afghanistan remains invisible to the American people.
Biden also failed to mention in his speech that there are
tens of thousands of private military contractors employed in Afghanistan. According
to the Times, “[m]ore than 16,000 civilian contractors, including over 6,000
Americans, now provide security, logistics and other support in Afghanistan.”
The Times did not see fit to ask how the war can be declared over if
mercenaries remain on the ground, nor how Biden can declare the war as ending
if airstrikes will continue.
Dr. Hakeem Naim is an Afghan American lecturer in the
Department of History at the University of California, Berkeley; he was raised
in Afghanistan and has lived in multiple countries as a refugee and immigrant
before moving to the U.S. In an interview,
he explained what Biden refused to mention: that “the U.S. created chaos by
supporting the most corrupt elite groups and created a mafia-system of economy
run by the drug lords, warlords and contractors.” Worst of all, “the Taliban is
back in power,” he said, implying that Afghanistan is essentially back where it
started in 2001.
Fahima Gaheez, the
director of the Afghan Women’s Fund, concurred with Naim, saying that “the U.S.
made a bigger mess in Afghanistan and lost too many opportunities to help
Afghans to fix the problems that the U.S. itself created 40 years ago.” She was
referring to the CIA
arming of Afghan mujahideen warlords against the Soviet Union, which
invaded and occupied Afghanistan in the late 1970s.
In other words, our destructive involvement in Afghanistan
predates by decades the post-9/11 invasion and occupation that continues to
this day. Instead of owning up to the havoc we have wreaked in Afghanistan,
Biden wants credit for withdrawing U.S. troops from a war we have been involved
in since the 1970s (not 2001), and that will most certainly not end by
September 11, 2021.
Today, according to Dr. Naim, “the CIA has thousands of militias
operating in Afghanistan, and there are still thousands of contractors whose
objective Afghans don’t even know.” He summarized, “It’s going to be very naive
and simplistic to think that the war will end.” Gaheez, who has traveled to
Afghanistan numerous times to oversee humanitarian aid projects, has seen
firsthand what the private contractors represent. She said, “they have CIA
clearance and weapons, and they can be used as a partial military force.” In
fact, the private military contractors outnumber U.S. troops by so much
contractors than soldiers have died. The special inspector general for
Afghanistan reconstruction (SIGAR), a watchdog agency, warned that
the pullout of contractors could have worse consequences than the withdrawal of
But none of that was important enough for Biden to mention.
Instead, the president claimed that
in 2001, “The cause was just… And I supported that military action.” Then,
encompassing the disastrous war into a single simplistic sentence, Biden
claimed, “We delivered justice to bin Laden a decade ago, and we’ve stayed in
Afghanistan for a decade since.”
With these words, the president offered a tantalizing
characterization of the Afghan war: that the U.S. intended to root out
terrorism, that the task was achieved, and that we should have left soon after.
It is a comforting thought to reimagine the Afghanistan war through such a
benevolent lens—as if our only gaffe was that we stayed too long. Biden also
made absolutely no mention of the fact that bin Laden was captured and killed
in Pakistan, not
Missing from the political dialogue over the war is just how
obscenely we have paid to fight this futile 20-year battle that will leave
Afghanistan in the hands of a corrupt and ineffectual government and a newly
empowered Taliban force and other warlords and militias. According to the Costs
of War project run by Brown University, American taxpayers forked over
more than $2.2 trillion for a war in Afghanistan that Biden wants us to believe
achieved its objective by assassinating bin Laden a decade ago in Pakistan.
At a time when inequality continues to rise in the U.S. and
politicians claim there is no money to fund
infrastructure projects or a Green
New Deal or Medicare
for All, the costs of the Afghan war will continue to rise in both economic
and human terms. Taxpayers will continue to foot the bill for airstrikes and
private contractors with no end in sight. Afghans will continue to suffer and
Seen through such a lens, Dr. Naim gave an accurate
impression of Biden’s speech as simply, “a colonialist and orientalist
justification of an intervention.”.
*Sonali Kolhatkar is
the founder, host and executive producer of “Rising Up With Sonali,” a
television and radio show that airs on Free Speech TV and Pacifica stations.
She is a writing fellow for the Economy for All project
at the Independent Media Institute.