I’ve seen this movie too many times during the Obama administration. So I’m a little bit skeptical.
Here’s what Biden said in his speech.
“While we will not stay involved in Afghanistan militarily, our diplomatic and humanitarian work will continue. We’ll continue to support the government of Afghanistan. We will keep providing assistance to the Afghan National Defenses and Security Forces.”
As I mentioned in an earlier post, Obama announced something similar in 2014, when he declared that, “our combat mission in Afghanistan is ending, and the longest war in American history is coming to a responsible conclusion.”
Obviously, it did not.
Obama announced the end of combat operations in Iraq and then Afghanistan, and tried to pass that off as withdrawals. The mission was renamed and American forces were redefined as being there to support the Iraqi and Afghan forces.
Biden is emphasizing a military withdrawal, but so did Obama. He just redefined the military as advisors.
“Our diplomacy does not hinge on having boots in harm’s way — U.S. boots on the ground. We have to change that thinking,” Biden said.
The “boots on the ground” line should be familiar. Obama claimed that there would be no boots on the ground in Libya. There were just ‘sneakers’ on the ground.
This time the withdrawal may be real. Or it may not. It’s all a matter of official definitions and troop numbers.
Take this New York Times story from last month.
The United States has about 1,000 more troops in Afghanistan than it has disclosed, according to U.S., European and Afghan officials.
The cloudy accounting around the troop numbers results from some Special Operations forces having been put “off the books,” according to a senior U.S. official, as well as the presence of some temporary and transitioning units. These troops, according to a second U.S. official, include Joint Special Operations Command units, some of them elite Army Rangers, who work under both the Pentagon and the CIA while deployed to Afghanistan.
So are we withdrawing? Who the hell knows. And we may actually never know for sure. The official numbers will say one thing, but there will still be be advisers and contractors on the ground, and unofficial special forces and who knows what else.
But Biden will still claim he withdrew. Just like his boss did in 2014.