President Joe Biden is expected to formally announce on Wednesday that the U.S. will withdraw all its troops from Afghanistan by September 11, multiple outlets are reporting Tuesday, citing U.S. officials. This prompted a fiery retort from Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), who called it “a disaster in the making” and “dumber than dirt”.
The move will bring the almost two-decade war, America’s longest, to an end by the date of the 20th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, which prompted the initial invasion of Afghanistan.
The decision was reported earlier on Tuesday by The Washington Post.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the decision will revise a Trump administration plan for a withdrawal by May 1 of this year. Former President Donald Trump was especially vocal about ending this war and other “forever wars”.
The U.S. is coordinating the withdrawal of its roughly 3,500 troops with NATO allies, which now contribute the bulk of forces to the conflict with its own 6,500 troops, officials said, according to The Journal.
Biden concluded that al Qaeda and associated groups no longer pose a threat to the U.S. homeland and that keeping U.S. forces in Afghanistan is no longer necessary, officials said, according to the newspaper. Officials also said that the withdrawal by September 11 is a hard deadline and not a target based on conditions on the ground, as opposed to other drawdown plans.
Notably, U.S. forces will instead be scattered across South and Central Asia, according to The Journal. This, according to the newspaper, could let the U.S. to maintain a military presence in the surrounding region and allow it to monitor Afghanistan all while ending the conflict.
Sen. Graham was particularly upset by reports of the decision, and said in a Tuesday statement that a “full withdrawal from Afghanistan is so irresponsible, it makes the Biden Administration policies at the border look sound,” also accusing Biden of, “in essence,” canceling “an insurance policy against another 9/11.”
“A residual counterterrorism force would be an insurance policy against the rise of radical Islam in Afghanistan that could pave the way for another attack against our homeland or our allies,” Graham argued.
“I hope our military advised against this withdrawal because I know what is most likely to happen: a reigniting of the Afghan Civil War and reversing all gains for Afghan women and children,” the senator continued. “The void created by this fight benefits ISIS and al Qaeda, who still reside in Afghanistan.”
“I think it is insane to withdraw at this time given the conditions that exist on the ground in Afghanistan,” Graham also said. “I know people are frustrated, but wars don’t end because you’re frustrated. Wars end when the threat is eliminated.”
“President Trump kept a residual force, but he did set a hard withdrawal date, which I thought was very bad, ill-conceived policy.”
“Now we have, on the 20th anniversary of 9/11, the complete withdrawal in spite of all the intelligence assessments, Graham continued. “I find it ironic that, given the sacrifices we’ve made to move Afghanistan forward, prevent another 9/11, and ensure the enduring defeat of al Qaeda and ISIS, that on the 20th anniversary of the attack we’re paving the way for another attack.”
“All of America’s allies were willing to stay if we were willing to stay,” the senator concluded. “To announce a full withdrawal sends a signal of incredible weakness to adversaries like al Qaeda, ISIS, Hezbollah, China, Russia, and Iran.”
You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @DouglasPBraff.
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Mental health crisis spikes among Afghan women after Taliban regained control two years ago
The women of Afghanistan are suffering a mental health crisis since the Taliban regained power two years ago. According to a joint report from three U.N. agencies released Tuesday, approximately 70% of women experience feelings of anxiety, isolation and depression.
The numbers continue to rise, as there has already been a significant jump between April and June of this year alone, with an increase from 57% the preceding quarter.
The report, conducted by U.N. Women, the International Organization for Migration and the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, interviewed women online, in-person and in group consultations as well as individual telesurveys.
592 Afghan women in 22 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces took part in the study. The Associated Press reports:
They have barred women from most areas of public life and work and banned girls from going to school beyond the sixth grade. They have prohibited Afghan women from working at local and non-governmental organizations. The ban was extended to employees of the United Nations in April.
Opportunities to study continued to shrink as community-based education by international organizations was banned and home-based schooling initiatives were regularly shut down by the de facto authorities — a term use by the U.N. for the Taliban government.
Afghanistan is the only country in the world with restrictions on female education and the rights of Afghan women and children are on the agenda of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
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