Veterans share mixed reactions about Biden’s Afghanistan troop withdrawal

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SAN DIEGO – Some local veterans are sharing mixed feelings about President Joe Biden’s plan to end the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan.

Speaking from the Treaty Room at the White House, Biden said the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, which were coordinated from Afghanistan, “cannot explain” why the U.S. remains in the country in 2021. He concluded that it’s “time to end America’s longest war” and laid out a plan to bring some 2,500 American troops home by the 20th anniversary of the attacks.

“I’m now the fourth United States president to preside over American true presence in Afghanistan; two Republicans, two Democrats,” Biden said. “I will not pass this responsibility onto a fifth.”

Shawn VanDiver, a U.S. Navy veteran with the Truman National Security Project San Diego Chapter, said he applauds Biden’s “difficult decision to pull troops out of Afghanistan.”

“This war has gone on for 20 years,” VanDiver said.

He questions the cost and the worth of the long conflict in Afghanistan.

“It cost us $2 trillion dollars,” he said. “We have 2,000 dead Americans. Twenty thousand wounded Americans and at least 100,000 Afghan civilians who were either killed or injured.”

But Chad Talbot, a retired Naval Special Warfare Operator of 911 Academy, called Biden’s decision “a mistake,” arguing, “You can’t put a timeframe on terrorism and the protection of America whether it’s 10 years, 12 years, 17 years or 20 years.”

Talbot adds: “We had a lot of wins in Afghanistan. “Look where the Taliban is at now. Look at the numbers, right? There’s been a lot of good that has been done by us being there.”

In a Sept. 2019 Gallup poll during the Trump administration, 43% of Americans said it was a mistake to send U.S. troops into Afghanistan while 52% said it wasn’t a mistake. Views also were mixed about whether the war made the U.S. safer with 46% saying it made the country less safe, 43% saying they’re safer and another 7% saying there’s been no change.

Talbot worries pulling out all troops from Afghanistan would create a power vacuum, similar to what he saw happen after troops withdrew from Iraq.

“You can’t prepare 100% for the unseen, what ISIS created,” he said. “What they did with their caliphate. But we don’t ever want to see that again, right? So we want to make sure that we are prepared. We have a contingency.”

VanDiver agrees that there’s “real danger” of the Taliban taking over the country again, but “that’s why the United States and our allies are still going to continue our humanitarian support and our support of the Afghan security services.”

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