Ignore the Media Spin. Joe Biden is Not Ending the Afghanistan War

Don’t be fooled by the latest media propaganda. U.S. troops will not be withdrawing from Afghanistan in September — or anytime soon, for that matter. The longest-running war in U.S. history remains a quagmire with no end in sight. President Joe Biden is unlikely to alter that reality.

Biden is Actually Delaying Troop Withdrawals

First, let’s get the facts straight. Contrary to the corporate media narrative, Biden has not negotiated a new timeline for U.S. troop withdrawals from Afghanistan. Troops are already scheduled to leave the country by May 1, per a deal with the Taliban agreed to by Biden’s predecessor. Yes, you read correctly: Donald Trump negotiated a withdrawal deal in Afghanistan last year, in what was likely an election year maneuver.

(Trump, rhetorically at least, often positioned himself as something of an “anti-interventionist” president throughout his one term. Indeed, during the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump was easily to the left of Hillary Clinton on foreign policy. Yet, when Trump made tangible efforts toward ending the U.S.’s “forever wars,” ostensibly anti-war liberals went apoplectic.)

In other words, Biden is actually delaying troop withdrawals from Afghanistan — not accelerating them. As Jacobin’s Branko Marcetic writes in a recent piece, “Biden’s delay is an unambiguous violation of the deal Trump struck with the Taliban, and the latter are treating it that way…”

In response, Taliban forces are openly threatening to retaliate against any American troops still in the country past the agreed-upon May 1 deadline. The Taliban are also refusing to attend the upcoming peace summit with the Afghan government in Turkey. As Marcetic points out, all of this could lead to further escalation of violence in Afghanistan, thus granting the Biden administration an excuse to further delay the United States’ exit from the country, thereby extending the already interminable war indefinitely…

It is a thoroughly cynical move, but one that is entirely in keeping with Biden’s manipulative brand of neoliberal politics throughout his decades-long career. This is the same politician, keep in mind, who not only voted to authorize George W. Bush’s illegal, unwarranted invasion of Iraq, in 2003. Biden also spent the next nearly two decades lying about and denying his approval of that costly, botched war.

But, perhaps more importantly, if and when U.S. military forces do formally leave Afghanistan, a contingent of private military contractors and for-profit “mercenaries” will almost certainly remain to “maintain peace.” And Biden will likely continue his former boss’s practice of utilizing unmanned drones to bomb “strategic targets.”

According to Marcetic:

Unnamed “current and former American officials” have already told the New York Times that the Biden administration will “most likely” simply replace official US troops with spies, Special Forces, and private military contractors. Other unnamed officials have also told the paper the plan is to load up surrounding countries with US forces, then use drones and planes to kill suspected terrorists, the same way it does all over North Africa and the Middle East.

“If an invading force pulled troops out of the United States, but continued bombing and sending covert forces into it,” Marcetic writes, “ask yourself if you’d think the war had finished.”

Marcetic posits that Biden’s “withdrawal” from Afghanistan may have more to do with transitioning U.S. military forces toward confronting China, in an attempt to revive Barack Obama’s failed “pivot to Asia” policy.

It’s Over. We Lost.

Yet, there is a more practical reason for the United States to leave Afghanistan: In many ways the U.S. has lost the war — just like it lost in Vietnam.

Recall that George W. Bush initially invaded Afghanistan in response to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks with the goal of hunting down Osama bin Laden and dismantling al-Qaeda and the Taliban. (Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee of California was the sole member of Congress to vote against the invasion of Afghanistan.)

For a brief time, the U.S. military did have the Taliban on the run. But 20 years later, U.S. military officials acknowledge that the Taliban has regained power and “are at their strongest militarily,” according to Left Voice’s Salvador Soler. The Taliban have dramatically stepped up attacks and have retaken many provincial capitals.

“The … remaining U.S. forces have been propping up a deeply unpopular Afghan government,” writes Soler, “that has lost, or never earned, the trust of its people.”

But then, there is a reason why Afghanistan is known as the “Graveyard of Empires.” Both the British and the Soviet Union failed in their efforts to conquer Afghanistan. Did America truly believe it would succeed where those empires failed?

And Afghanistan is just one of the five countries the U.S. is currently engaged in, militarily. The fact that these low-key, “dirty wars” in Somalia, Yemen, Syria, Libya, and elsewhere generate next to no coverage in the “liberal” media helps keep them “out of sight, out of mind,” for members of the American public.

George Orwell was correct: “The war is not meant to be won,” he presciently wrote in Nineteen Eighty-Four. “It is meant to be continuous.”

War: A Fundamental Aspect of Capitalism

War and empire are not unfortunate aberrations — nor are they the natural result of a violent, greedy “human nature.” Rather, war is an inherent facet of capitalism. From its very origins, capitalism came dripping with blood (and oil) from conquest and plunder.

Vladimir Lenin called imperialism the “highest stage” of capitalism. Lenin, in his 1916 essay, Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism, understood imperialism as capitalism in its monopoly stage. This stage of monopoly capitalism is defined by a “world market” dominated by multinational corporate trusts and cartels, backed by powerful capitalist states each fighting to carve up the world.

Such imperialism is further characterized, Lenin wrote, by “monopolies, oligarchy, the striving for domination and not for freedom, the exploitation of an increasing number of small or weak nations by a handful of the richest or most powerful nations.”

Lenin wrote Imperialism at the beginning of the First World War. He argued that imperialism was not a political policy, but a new — and entirely inevitable — stage in the development of capitalism that grew out of earlier conditions.

Whither the Anti-War Movement?

Biden and the Democrats will do little to challenge — let alone dismantle — the American empire. Indeed, more congressional Democrats than Republicans voted to approve outgoing-President Trump’s gargantuan $740 billion military-spending bill, last December. And Biden’s proposed military budget is even larger.

Only an organized, mass anti-war movement can dismantle the American war-machine. Such a movement has been MIA for several years now, having tied itself to the hip of an imperialist Democratic Party that shares none of its values . We cannot wait for the next Republican president to return to the streets to oppose war. It is imperative that we rebuild the anti-war movement, now.

Over 50 years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. decried the United States as the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world, today.” Sadly, that assessment remains true today.

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Adam Marletta

Writer, socialist, and coffee-fiend. I have written for the West End News, Socialist Worker, a bunch of decidedly less interesting publications.