Medicine Hat News
Biden’s planned U.S. pullout from Afghanistan to use Sept. 11 as its deadline
President Joe Biden started the clock Wednesday on the long-awaited, longpromised withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, setting the 20th anniversary of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, as the deadline for ending “America’s longest war.”
From a podium in the White House Treaty Room, where former president George W. Bush launched the so-called war on terror, Biden essentially described a continued U.S. military presence as an exercise in futility.
“Our allies and partners have stood beside us, shoulder to shoulder, in Afghanistan for almost 20 years,” the president said as he announced the pullout would begin May 1 — predecessor Donald Trump’s deadline for his own withdrawal.
“We’re deeply grateful for the contributions they have made to our shared mission and for the sacrifices they have borne.”
Canada was among those allies and partners almost from the outset, with its 12-year presence — including 10 on the front lines of combat — costing the lives of some 159 Canadian troops.
Four civilians also died in Afghanistan, including Calgary Herald journalist Michelle Lang, as well as one diplomat: Glyn Berry, who was among the three people killed by a roadside bomb in January 2006.
In Canada, much of the mission has largely faded from the collective memory, admitted Bruce Moncur, who was on the ground for some of the most vicious Canadian fighting in the Panjwaii district at the height of the conflict in 2006.
“In trying so hard not to have another Vietnam, they created another Vietnam,” Moncur said in an interview. “They just didn’t learn.”
Moncur sustained brain damage during Operation Medusa when a pair of U.S. A-10 Thunderbolts, known as Warthogs, mistakenly unleashed their fearsome 30-mm cannons on a contingent of Canadian soldiers.
The husband of NDP MP Niki Ashton, he has since become an outspoken advocate for Canadian veterans of the war, producing YouTube documentaries about their exploits and lobbying for better treatment at the hands of the federal government.
Now studying in Manitoba to be a teacher, Moncur said some of the kids in his classes weren’t born until 2006, five years after the events in New York and Washington, D.C., that triggered 20 years of bloody Middle East conflict.
And while the sacrifices of Canadians in Afghanistan may have helped advance foreign-policy interests and ties with the U.S., he said, the mission’s lofty developmental goals - instilling democratic values and more rights for Afghan women, for instance — have largely gone wanting.
“We had 20 years to do it,” he said ruefully. “Twenty years is a long time.”
Biden’s decision — which Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed Tuesday with Foreign Affairs
Minister Marc Garneau — triggered a matching move from NATO.
The alliance has agreed to withdraw its roughly 7,000 troops starting May 1, although NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg didn’t commit to completing the effort in time for Sept. 11.