This story was excerpted from the July 9 edition of CNN’s Meanwhile in America, the daily email about US politics for global readers. Click here to read past editions and subscribe.
The President laid out a rather ruthless rationale on Thursday for leaving Afghanistan — despite fears that the US exit will inevitably lead to a return to power of the extremist Taliban.
Here’s the case he made at the White House. The US has been staying just a little bit longer for two decades — what good will hanging around do now? Furthermore, it’s up to Afghans to decide their fates — not Americans. The President also implied that the war-torn country had pretty much always been a mess, so if it falls apart again it will be returning to a historic norm.
He rejected parallels with the US defeat in Vietnam, since the goals of the operation — to deliver Osama bin Laden “to the gates of hell” after the September 11 attacks in 2001 and to crush al Qaeda’s operational capacity — were accomplished. And he made a somewhat contentious argument that Afghan national armed forces trained by the US and its allies were sufficiently strong to repel the Taliban.
Then Biden looked his country in the eye and asked a question that weighs especially heavily on this commander in chief, the first for decades to have had a child who served overseas in a war zone. Would the people who want the US to stay in Afghanistan send their own kids off to combat there?
What would happen to Afghan civilians in a new era under the Taliban, known for repressing women and for an austere brand of Sharia law, is deeply uncertain. But Biden essentially argued that it’s not America’s problem. He did, however, pledge that Afghan translators who worked with US forces and are now threatened by the Taliban have a home in the US.
“I judged that it was not in the national interests of the United States of America to continue fighting this war indefinitely. I made the decision with clear eyes and I’m briefed daily on the battlefield updates,” Biden said.
In other words, he’s fulfilling the core duty of any US president — deciding what is best for his country and no place else — despite the fact America’s choices affect pretty much everyone else.
It’s what ex-President Donald Trump might call America First.
‘Would you send your own son or daughter?’
Biden explained his decision to pull out of Afghanistan after America’s longest war by declaring that it was worth no more American sacrifices — despite fears he could be abandoning the country to a grim fate if the Taliban take back power.
“Let me ask those who wanted us to stay: How many more, how many thousands more Americans, daughters and sons, were you willing to risk? How long would you have them stay? Already, we have members of our military whose parents fought in Afghanistan 20 years ago. Would you send their children and their grandchildren, as well? Would you send your own son or daughter?
The many lives of Bagram
The 455th Air Expeditionary Wing was activated at Bagram Air Base on April 26, 2002, in support of the post-9/11 Operation Enduring Freedom. At one point, the base held more than 2,100 troops, all intent on preserving the integrity of US foreign policy in Afghanistan. Now all that will remain is the skeleton of the formerly bustling base. Below is Bagram’s history, in images.