With no good options, Biden had little choice but to leave Afghanistan

The withdrawal from Afghanistan is a bold move by President Joe Biden but ultimately he had no choice but to end a campaign in which victory was impossible.

It will be for historians to decide the legacy but a snap conclusion is unavoidable – the Americans have been humbled by their experience and have achieved very little.

President Biden is probably correct when he says the ability for terror organisations – and al Qaeda specifically – to use Afghanistan as a launch pad for terror attacks has been severely degraded.

But for how long?

The Taliban are undoubtedly still a force to be reckoned with and there is a good chance the country will implode when US forces are all out.

What this means for the Afghan people is horrendous to contemplate – many expect the country to lurch back into a civil war.

There are huge questions also about the ability of the central government’s security forces to stand up on their own feet.

More from Afghanistan

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  • Afghanistan: ‘Appalling cost’ of conflict revealed as 26,000 children killed or wounded since 2005

  • Australian special forces unlawfully killed civilians in Afghanistan, report finds

  • US announces sharp reduction of troop numbers in Afghanistan and Iraq

  • Kabul attack death toll rises to 35 as university students protest

How much support and humanitarian aid will still be provided after the draw down is yet to be answered. It will need to be significant.

What is clear is that Afghanistan – with an economy built around two decades of invasion – is totally reliant on foreign aid.

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‘It’s time for American troops to come home’

Mr Biden has no good options.

Whilst leaving may trigger a bloody power struggle, staying was hardly an attractive foreign policy proposal either.

The president is correct though when he says there are many places around the world where terror groups are banded; Afghanistan is no exception in an increasingly unstable world.

It has taken the US two decades to understand why the country is called “the graveyard of empires”.

And that lesson has come at an enormous cost in blood and treasure – the bill for the conflict is estimated at around $2 trillion and more than 2,400 US troops have lost their lives.

The White House, by adhering to the withdrawal, originally brokered by Donald Trump, is signalling that the country is now moving on and focussing on new threats – an expansionist China and an increasingly assertive Russia to name but two.

The horror of 9/11 is still visceral and will haunt the psyche of the US for years to come.

But as this century starts to define itself, staying on would only have been an exercise in fighting yesterday’s ghosts.

Mark Gibson

Graduates in Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 1990. Move to Los Angeles California in 2004. Specialized in Internet journalism.

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