President Joe Biden recently announced he directed the State and Defense Departments to conduct a “global force posture review” of all U.S. troops deployed abroad. If the goal of this review is to end multiple failed military interventions abroad and strengthen U.S. national security, Biden will have provided a great service to America. If it turns out to be merely a cover to halt all military withdrawals and extend the failed status quo of forever-wars abroad, Biden will be setting himself and the American people up for early failure.
The first item on Biden’s agenda should be America’s longest and most unnecessary war, in Afghanistan. The Trump administration negotiated a deal with the Taliban last February in which the United States agreed to withdraw all combat troops by May 1, 2021. The deal was primarily designed to end the threat to American troops and shift the onus of negotiating an end to the conflict on the warring parties.
There were only three primary provisions to the agreement: that the Taliban would guarantee Afghanistan would never again be used as a staging ground against the United States, that all foreign troops would withdraw from Afghan soil, and that a permanent ceasefire would “be an item on the agenda” of the two sides.
Then-national security advisor Robert O’Brien said last October that President Trump’s intent with the agreement was to acknowledge, “the Afghans themselves are going to have to work out an accord, a peace agreement … It’s going to be slow progress, it’s going to be hard progress, but we think it’s a necessary step.” American troops, he concluded, “need to come home.”
Although many in Washington want Biden to reverse Trump’s planned withdrawal, the president said his foreign policy will be based on something few of his predecessors have considered in recent decades: the desire of the American people. Unlike official Washington, most American families have a very different view on the war in Afghanistan.
Shortly before the 2020 election, the Eurasia Group Foundation conducted a poll asking Americans what they thought of Trump’s deal with the Taliban and his planned withdrawal. “Ending the war in Afghanistan is extremely popular,” the pollsters found, “and Americans of all political persuasions want to honor the recent agreement.”
If Biden wants to align his foreign policy with what is good for working American families, sticking to the agreement and completing the withdrawal from Afghanistan makes sense from both a domestic and foreign policy perspective. It is not, however, the only such combat operation under review. Other languishing American wars would benefit from Biden’s application of the same mentality.
America first sent combat troops to Iraq in August 1990 after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. Even after the successful conclusion of Desert Storm the following year, U.S. troops remained in Iraq enforcing various “no fly zones” all the way up to the opening salvo of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.
Other than a brief three-year hiatus from 2011 to 2014, American combat troops have been fighting one degree or another in Iraq for more than 30 years. We currently have only 2,500 troops there, providing no security for the United States. It is time to bring them home.
In 2012, President Obama first secretly ordered U.S. Special Forces troops to engage so-called moderate rebels in the Syrian civil war to oppose Bashar al-Assad. In 2015 he expanded the use of the American military to help the Syrian Democratic Forces defeat ISIS. Trump continued the mission when he entered office until ISIS eventually lost its entire caliphate in 2019.
There is no longer any valid military mission for our troops in Syria to accomplish. They also need to be withdrawn in their entirety.
It is reasonable and responsible for an incoming president to conduct a thorough review of combat operations before deciding which course of action is most appropriate. If Biden is sincere that he is not merely going to return to the status quo of the Obama administration and will base his foreign policy on what’s best for the American people, orders to withdraw from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria should closely follow the conclusion of Biden’s review.