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Cheney rails against plans to withdraw troops from Afghanistan

Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney on Tuesday criticized plans by the Biden administration to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan before this year’s 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

The planned troop withdrawals would mark the United States’ exit from a nearly two-decade long conflict in the Middle Eastern country set off by attacks orchestrated by extremists in the desert nation.

It is the longest war in U.S. history. Some 2,500 U.S. troops and another 7,000-plus NATO forces would be affected.

“President Biden’s decision hands the Taliban and al Qaeda a propaganda victory, abandons our global leadership position, and plays into our adversaries’ hands,” Cheney said in a statement. “As we saw with President Obama’s reckless decision to pull troops out of Iraq in 2011, retreat does not end the fight against terrorism. It merely gives our enemies more room to reconstitute and plot attacks against the homeland.”

Public support for withdrawing troops from Afghanistan is mixed. However, a majority of Americans favor ending the U.S. military’s involvement under a hypothetical presidential authorization, according to polling data. War-weary officials in the Trump and Biden administrations have called for a drawdown of troops there with Trump setting and Biden now extending a May 1 withdrawal deadline. Some troops would remain to guard the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

“We’ve long known that military force would not solve Afghanistan’s internal political challenges, would not end Afghanistan’s internal conflict,” a senior Biden official told reporters, according to a readout of the announcement furnished by the White House. “And so we are ending our military operations while we focus our efforts on supporting, diplomatically, the ongoing peace process.”

But Cheney — as well as many in the larger intelligence community — disagrees, warning a de-escalation of the military presence there could destabilize slowly developing efforts toward peace.

The former State Department official’s foreign policy stances have created friction with members of both parties, including former president Trump. Those stances have occasionally drawn criticism from lawmakers in Wyoming and have contrasted with other members of Wyoming’s delegation. Sen. Cynthia Lummis broke with her own Republican party to praise Biden’s withdrawal plans.

“I wish the Biden Administration had kept to President Trump’s May 1 deadline, but I am pleased our troops are coming home,” Lummis said in a statement Wednesday.

Some U.S. officials have argued withdrawing from the country too early could leave a power vacuum, leaving the door open for adversaries like Iran and Russia to fill the void. Meanwhile both sides in Afghanistan remain mired in conflict despite ongoing peace talks.

But the move also represents the dismantling of a policy of intervention in the Middle East established decades earlier while Cheney’s father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, served as Secretary of Defense.

The elder Cheney has been considered by many – including his former boss, George H.W. Bush – as a chief architect of the current conflicts in the Middle East. As Defense Secretary in the early 1990s, Cheney oversaw U.S. forces in an invasion of Iraq under Operation Desert Storm. Some believe that exacerbated tensions in the region and laid the groundwork for the extremist attacks that occurred in the following decade.

The potential for resurgent terrorist threats in Afghanistan remain high, according to government officials, which many cite as reason to keep troops there.

Withdrawing too early could haunt the U.S., Rep. Cheney said.

“Wars don’t end when one side abandons the fight,” Cheney said in the statement. “Withdrawing our forces from Afghanistan by September 11 will only embolden the very jihadists who attacked our homeland on that day twenty years ago. By declaring that this withdrawal is not based on conditions on the ground, the Biden Administration is sending a dangerous signal that the United States fundamentally does not understand — or is willfully ignorant of — the terrorist threat.”

WyoFile is an independent nonprofit news organization focused on Wyoming people, places and policy.