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The war in Afghanistan has dragged on for two decades, without bringing greater security to the United States or stable democracy to Afghanistan. FCNL took a public stand against war in Afghanistan right from the very start, following the 9/11 attacks. Since then, we’ve worked not only to end this terrible war, but also to challenge the militarist logic that allowed it to continue. 

As the president made clear, military withdrawal will not mean the abandonment of the Afghan people.

On April 14, our persistence paid off when President Joe Biden formally announced his decision to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan. He said that final troop withdrawal will be completed by September 11, the twentieth anniversary of the attacks that precipitated the war.

A Long-Awaited Step

Although President Donald Trump reduced the number of U.S. troops on the ground in Afghanistan, which we supported, he did not take the steps necessary to make good on his negotiated commitment with the Taliban to end U.S. military occupation of Afghanistan by May 1.

As the fourth president to preside over the war in Afghanistan, President Biden has bravely demonstrated the leadership that this country needs and that peace advocates have long called for—the strength to accept that there is no military solution to conflict in Afghanistan. “We cannot continue the cycle of extending or expanding our military presence in Afghanistan,” Biden said, “hoping to create ideal conditions for the withdrawal, and expecting a different result.”

Since 2001, at least 171,000 people have been killed in war in Afghanistan, including more than 47,000 Afghan civilians. The war has also forcibly displaced at least 5.3 million Afghans and cost the United States over $2 trillion. To be clear, ending U.S. participation in the Afghan war will not resolve conflict in the country. However, military withdrawal marks a critical and fundamental shift in U.S. strategy on Afghanistan, toward one that centers diplomacy and supports long-term Afghan-led solutions to the problems that Afghanistan faces.

Afghanistan is not the only endless war in which the United States is engaged.

The president made clear that military withdrawal will not mean the abandonment of the Afghan people, pledging that “our diplomatic and humanitarian work will continue” along with our support for the rights of Afghan women and girls.  He also insisted that “our diplomacy does not hinge on having boots in harm’s way,” and reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to engaging regional actors in the Afghan peace process, highlighting the need for Pakistan, Russia, China, India and Turkey to play constructive roles.

Looking Forward

This week’s announcement is a testament to the work of peace advocates over the past twenty years, who have promoted non-military tools for conflict resolution and demonstrated that war is not the answer.  The experience in Afghanistan provides clear evidence of how militarized counterterrorism in the region exacerbates the terrorist threat—ultimately putting both U.S. service members and Afghan civilians at further risk.

But Afghanistan is not the only endless war in which the United States is engaged. We will continue to work here in Washington and with our Advocacy Teams around the country to repeal the 2001 and 2002 Authorizations for Use of Military Force, which have been used by four successive administrations to justify counterterrorism operations in at least 19 countries.

What You Can Do

Terminating the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan may be popular among the American people, but President Biden is receiving harsh criticism from those in Washington who believe that maintaining an indefinite troop presence will miraculously achieve the goals that 20 years of war have not.  That’s why it’s so important to urge your lawmakers to support the president’s plan to withdraw. Take action now!

Julia Gledhill

Julia Gledhill

Program Associate, Militarism & Human Rights
Julia Gledhill served as the program associate for militarism and human rights from 2020-2021. She advocates for a U.S. foreign policy centered on diplomacy and human security.