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Politics & Government

Reactions To Biden's Decision To Pull Troops From Afghanistan Are Mixed

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Today, a look at President Biden's foreign policy at a time when things are rapidly shifting. Russia is building up its troop presence near Ukraine. China is aghast at America's display of alliance with Japan at the White House. Iran says it's continuing to enrich uranium as talks go on to curb its nuclear program. And, after almost 20 years, President Biden announced the U.S. will finally leave Afghanistan.

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PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: We went to Afghanistan because of a horrific attack that happened 20 years ago. That cannot explain why we should remain there in 2021. Rather than return to war with the Taliban, we have to focus on the challenges that are in front of us.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That conflict has been costly, complex and far-reaching, so we wanted to take a moment to hear some of the perspectives of those impacted by the war there.

THOMAS BURKE: The human cost of being in Afghanistan is extensive.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Thomas Burke Jr. served there as a Marine. He remembers humanity and bloodshed.

BURKE: You know, I grew deep relationships with these local kids that would follow me on patrol. They would tell us where IEDs were, where improvised explosives were, where bombs were. At one point, they brought them to us, and it exploded on them. There was blood everywhere and, you know, fragments of skulls and body parts. Not a day goes by without me thinking of those kids.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Burke says he wishes U.S. troops had left long ago. Nazia Gabar does not.

NAZIA GABAR: They shouldn't take out all the troops from Afghanistan. This could lead to a very bad situation.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Gabar moved to San Leandro, Calif., from Kabul in 2017.

GABAR: I have there my family - my father, my mother, and I have five sisters there and my two brothers. In the whole family, just my one sister - she's able to work. And the pandemic - my husband is, like - he's jobless. So it's very difficult for us. But still, if the troops go out and if the security situation gets worse, I will send them more money because, you know, that's the only way that they can survive.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Nongovernmental organizations like Help the Afghan Children promise aid to Afghan citizens. Mohammad Osman Hemat is one of the NGO's directors.

MOHAMMAD OSMAN HEMAT: Many Afghan NGOs are being closed. And NGOs are the only organizations that help the most vulnerable people in remote areas of the country. So if the international community leave Afghanistan in this situation, the people of Afghanistan will suffer a lot because of this.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Afghanistan's ambassador to the U.S., Roya Rahmani, hopes not, as she said on All Things Considered this past week.

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ROYA RAHMANI: This does not mean the end of our partnership. So as they have decided to withdraw the troops regardless of the conditions on the ground, we respect their decision. But then we are hoping that, with their support, we would be able to continue to protect and defend ourselves.

MANSOOR FAIZY: The Afghan government said the narrative that the Afghan government will collapse after the withdrawal of U.S. troops is a false narrative.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Mansoor Faizy is the editor-in-chief of Afghanistan Times Daily.

FAIZY: But al-Qaida is still there in the region. The Taliban are more strong. The Taliban are claiming that they have changed, that they are willing to preserve the rights of woman, the rights of human. But still, we cannot trust them. Violence is everywhere in Afghanistan and in the provinces. So this will lead to another civil war. I'm not optimistic about my future.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's echoed by Najia Nasim, executive director of Women Helping Afghan Women (ph).

NAJIA NASIM: In the last two months, a number of women were killed. There are so many target killings, and the risk is high for human rights defenders. I'm also one of those people. And, I mean, mentally, I am prepared for that. Maybe most of the Americans may want this war to be ended. But at the same time, that should be a responsible withdrawal from Afghanistan and not leaving Afghanistan alone. Conditions should be set over the other regional players that a lasting peace must protect the rights of all citizens, particularly those of Afghan women and girls.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Elliot Ackerman served four tours in Afghanistan as a Marine and questions Biden's decision.

ELLIOT ACKERMAN: The cost of staying in Afghanistan in 2021 is not the cost of staying in Afghanistan in 2009 during the surge or in 2010 or even in 2011. To me, what I find most concerning is this announcement seems to come without a strategic vision and a long-term plan for the future not only of Afghanistan but for the future of U.S. interests in the region. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.