Military Norman Solomon

The Fine Print on Biden’s Afghanistan Announcement

Contrary to what Joe Biden has said and corporate media has parroted, U.S. warfare in Afghanistan is set to continue well beyond September 11, 2021.
Guljumma, 7, and her father, Wakil Tawos Khan, at the Helmand Refugee Camp District 5 in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 31, 2009. [Photo by Reese Erlich]

By Norman Solomon

When I met a seven-year-old girl named Guljumma at a refugee camp in Kabul a dozen years ago, she told me that bombs fell early one morning while she slept at home in southern Afghanistan’s Helmand Valley. With a soft, matter-of-fact voice, Guljumma described what happened. Some people in her family died. She lost an arm.

Troops on the ground didn’t kill Guljumma’s relatives and leave her to live with only one arm. The U.S. air war did.

There’s no good reason to assume the air war in Afghanistan will be over when — according to President Biden’s announcement on Wednesday — all U.S. forces will be withdrawn from that country.

What Biden didn’t say was as significant as what he did say. He declared that “U.S. troops, as well as forces deployed by our NATO allies and operational partners, will be out of Afghanistan” before Sept. 11. And “we will not stay involved in Afghanistan militarily.”

But President Biden did not say that the United States will stop bombing Afghanistan. What’s more, he pledged that “we will keep providing assistance to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces,” a declaration that actually indicates a tacit intention to “stay involved in Afghanistan militarily.”

And, while the big-type headlines and prominent themes of media coverage are filled with flat-out statements that the U.S. war in Afghanistan will end come September, the fine print of coverage says otherwise.

The banner headline across the top of the New York Times homepage during much of Wednesday proclaimed: “Withdrawal of U.S. Troops in Afghanistan Will End Longest American War.” But, buried in the thirty-second paragraph of a story headed “Biden to Withdraw All Combat Troops From Afghanistan by Sept. 11,” the Times reported: “Instead of declared troops in Afghanistan, the United States will most likely rely on a shadowy combination of clandestine Special Operations forces, Pentagon contractors and covert intelligence operatives to find and attack the most dangerous Qaeda or Islamic State threats, current and former American officials said.”

Matthew Hoh, a Marine combat veteran who in 2009 became the highest-ranking U.S. official to resign from the State Department in protest of the Afghanistan war, told my colleagues at the Institute for Public Accuracy on Wednesday: “Regardless of whether the 3,500 acknowledged U.S. troops leave Afghanistan, the U.S. military will still be present in the form of thousands of special operations and CIA personnel in and around Afghanistan, through dozens of squadrons of manned attack aircraft and drones stationed on land bases and on aircraft carriers in the region, and by hundreds of cruise missiles on ships and submarines.”

We scarcely hear about it, but the U.S. air war on Afghanistan has been a major part of Pentagon operations there. And for more than a year, the U.S. government hasn’t even gone through the motions of disclosing how much of that bombing has occurred.

“We don’t know, because our government doesn’t want us to,” diligent researchers Medea Benjamin and Nicolas Davies wrote last month. “From January 2004 until February 2020, the U.S. military kept track of how many bombs and missiles it dropped on Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, and published those figures in regular, monthly Airpower Summaries, which were readily available to journalists and the public. But in March 2020, the Trump administration abruptly stopped publishing U.S. Airpower Summaries, and the Biden administration has so far not published any either.”

The U.S. war in Afghanistan won’t end just because President Biden and U.S. news media tell us so. As Guljumma and countless other Afghan people have experienced, troops on the ground aren’t the only measure of horrific warfare.

No matter what the White House and the headlines say, U.S. taxpayers won’t stop subsidizing the killing in Afghanistan until there is an end to the bombing and “special operations” that remain shrouded in secrecy.

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6 comments

  1. The labels attached to people and/or governments by the corporate media shape the military/corporate narrative. The DNC and the liberal media used “socialist”, “Russian asset”, and “Assad apologist” to delegitimize the Sanders and Gabbard presidential campaigns and Americans and citizens of the rest of the world will suffer greatly as a result. It’s never been more clear that our top political, military and intelligence officials and the media they control are engaged in a disinformation campaign aimed at American citizens in service of fabricating “enemies” to justify their huge budgets and genocidal colonial wars. Their utter lack of concern let alone guilt for the millions of innocent human beings murdered or displaced as refugees as a result of US “interventionist wars” and “wars on drugs” in the middle east and Latin America revealed to be based on lies is astounding. The bipartisan racist, sociopathic zeitgeist that describes US domestic and foreign policy is unconscionable.

  2. thank you for your honesty……..I will pray for the little girl, who is now a grown women, who lost her arm. Like many other causualties of war, both military and civilian, it is so sad and heart breaking to hear of these terrible events. When will we ever learn……maybe never. Peace.

  3. I was looking through the news today and as usual in all the “progressive” websites it’s, “they should do this” and “they must do that,” and I go to the comments that almost universally agree and as usual, nobody points out that we don’t have a say, and this and that have less then a snowballs chance in hell. Of course Biden is not pulling out of Afghanistan, but he will get the credit for it anyway.

    Just like I see Sanders or one of the others getting credit for putting out some bill or another that will never ever see the light of day. A bill that is buried in the nearest dumpster the very second after it is submitted, and not one single sheep points out or realizes, that none of it means a hill of beans other then to endlessly sheep dog the sheep back into their mindless devotion to nothing. After over four decades of endless lies, gaslighting and slide into a corporate dystopian nightmare and even now, the sheep willingly group think their way to the slaughterhouse and castigate anyone who tries to point it out to them.

    To call this disheartening is in truth, an understatement. Is one single glimmer of actual hope too much to ask in forty freaking years? It’s like living some twisted Groundhog Day endlessly and nothing I can say or do can ever make a difference, or advance the clock to a new damn day.

  4. Caitlin Johnstone, the Australian journalist says it more cogently – speaks more forcefully, without attempting to be sensitive – tactful journalistic nicety, to the unconscionably brutal purveyors of devastating global genocidal power.

  5. I so appreciate you as an exposer of truths. Guess you went on your own cause Main Street wasn’t doing it right as you exampled in your article. I do not know if there is or is not any hope for the current way of doing things, as they say. Seems like what our creative brains did with natural materials is dooming every living thing on planet and not enough questions asked nor the media telling their audience so they could get on board to save their own asses and the generation of asses following them. Devastated by the push for nuclear energy. As if the people who are going to be dealing with the future after all us activists, politicians, moneymakers are gone, will not have enough to deal with in warming temps, shortage of water, and god knows what else. Colorado is measuring their water supply from the water towers of their west. We should be doing so along the Cascades.

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