Columnist Richard Fein: Afghanistan: It’s time to leave

  • Afghan security forces gather at the site of Monday's suicide attack near the Bagram Air Base, north of Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, April 9, 2019. Three American service members and a U.S. contractor were killed when their convoy hit a roadside bomb on Monday near the main U.S. base in Afghanistan, the U.S. forces said. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. AP

Published: 3/22/2021 4:01:17 PM

This column is about a foreign policy issue that President Biden will need to deal with very soon: Whether the United States should withdraw America’s 2,500 troops from Afghanistan or leave its troops there.

This is the current situation: In February 2020, the United States signed the “Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan” with the Taliban, the Islamist extremist group that controls much of that country and against whom we have been fighting for eighteen years.

Under this agreement, all U.S. and NATO troops will withdraw from Afghanistan by May 1. In exchange, the Taliban promised to begin peace talks with the government of Afghanistan and to not permit terrorist groups (for example, Al Qaeda) from operating in that country.

On Feb. 28, the State Department announced that Ambassador Khalilzad, special representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, will travel to Kabul, Doha and additional regional capitals. He will resume discussions on the way ahead with the Islamic Republic and Afghan leaders, Taliban representatives, and regional countries.

Khalilzad enters the new talks facing an unpleasant military reality: The Taliban is increasing its military hold on Afghanistan. “The Taliban have been encroaching on key cities around Afghanistan for months, threatening to drive the country to its breaking point,” according to the New York Times.

In addition, the Taliban has been allowing terrorists groups to operate in Afghanistan. It is my understanding that the Taliban could stop, but then restart that policy at any time if it wanted to.

Should the U.S. withdraw its troops? My answer is “yes.” Here are my reasons:

■Our country has been fighting in Afghanistan for 18 years at the cost of thousands of U.S. lives and $2 trillion. In all that time the government and army of Afghanistan haven’t built the strength to defeat the Taliban. In my opinion, a continued American military presence will not change that situation.

It is true that life has improved for many Afghans. Particularly in the country’s cities, opportunities for education have grown. Many more girls are now in school. Democratic institutions have been built, although they are shaky at best. It would be tragic to lose that. However, my opinion is that after 18 years it is no longer our moral responsibility to protect those gains.

■The Taliban have threatened to resume attacks against American and other NATO forces if the United States decides to keep its 2,500 troops in the country beyond the May deadline. Why shed more American blood is a war we can’t win and don’t need to fight?

My understanding is that the U.S. has the capability to launch aerial attacks against terrorist groups if necessary without having troops on the ground.

■Pakistan can foil any continued American military presence in Afghanistan if it wishes. Al Qaeda already has a tolerated presence in Pakistan. An article in Foreign Affairs noted that Pakistan might decide to increase its support for the Taliban and there isn’t much our country could do about it.

In my opinion, there are two likely outcomes: Either an endless U.S. military presence or a Taliban military victory. Some knowledgeable people disagree with my assessment. They believe that the current government in Kabul and the Taliban might reach a stable power sharing agreement like the one our country is strongly advocating.

They are overly optimistic. The possibility that the Taliban will actually abide by any agreement is very slim. The Taliban can win militarily and have total power so they have little incentive to share it. Also, any power sharing arrangement would leave the Taliban in effective control of much of Afghanistan anyway.

Quite separate from the Afghanistan problem, the U.S. must consider the possibility of a dangerous confrontation with China, Iran or North Korea. Remaining mired in Afghanistan reduces America’s ability to deter those adversaries or (God forbid) fight them if they attack the United States or it allies.

Our country has little to gain and much to lose by keeping the men and women of our military forces in Afghanistan. After 18 years, whatever moral obligation we may have had to Afghanistan and its people has been met. Our country will be in a stronger position to confront more threatening adversaries if we do not remain mired in Afghanistan.

The May 1 deadline in the existing agreement for bringing peace to Afghanistan provides an opportunity for an honorable exit that is in America’s best interests. It’s time to bring our troops home.

Richard Fein holds a master’s degree in political science and an MBA in economics. He can be reached at

Sign up for our free email updates
Daily Hampshire Gazette Headlines
Daily Hampshire Gazette Contests & Promotions
Daily Hampshire Gazette Evening Top Reads
Daily Hampshire Gazette Breaking News
Daily Hampshire Gazette Obits
Daily Hampshire Gazette Sports
Daily Hampshire Gazette PM Updates
Daily Hampshire Gazette Weekly Top Stories
Valley Advocate Newsletter
Daily Hampshire Gazette Dining & Entertainment


Support Local Journalism

Subscribe to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, your leading source for news in the Pioneer Valley.

Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

23 Service Center Road
Northampton, MA 01060


Copyright © 2021 by H.S. Gere & Sons, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy