President Joe Biden speaks during a ceremony to honour slain U.S. Capitol Police officer William “Billy” Evans as he lies in honor at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, April 13, 2021. Biden is to start the clock today on the long-awaited withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Afghanistan. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/J. Scott Applewhite

President Joe Biden speaks during a ceremony to honour slain U.S. Capitol Police officer William “Billy” Evans as he lies in honor at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, April 13, 2021. Biden is to start the clock today on the long-awaited withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Afghanistan. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/J. Scott Applewhite

Biden’s planned U.S. pullout from Afghanistan to use Sept. 11 anniversary as deadline

Canada was among those allies and partners almost from the outset, with its 12-year presence

President Joe Biden started the clock Wednesday on the long-awaited, long-promised 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.

“We went into Afghanistan together, we have adjusted our posture together and we are united in leaving together,” Stoltenberg said.

While Canada completed its own pullout in 2014, some 9,600 NATO soldiers remain in Afghanistan, about 2,500 of them members of the American contingent.

Many will argue, Biden acknowledged, that a diplomatic solution to the challenges in Afghanistan cannot succeed without American troops there to backstop the effort.

“We gave that argument a decade. It’s never proved effective,” he said.

“Our diplomacy does not hinge on having boots in harm’s way, U.S. boots on the ground. We have to change that thinking.”

A decade-long effort to capture and kill al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden finally succeeded in Pakistan in 2011, and since then, the rationale for remaining in Afghanistan has only grown more murky, he said.

And the terrorist threat once so concentrated in the desolate Panjwaii plains and the caves beneath the Hindu Kush mountains has been “metastasizing around the globe” ever since.

“With the terror threat now in many places, keeping thousands of troops grounded and concentrated in just one country, at a cost of billions each year, makes little sense to me and other leaders,” Biden said.

“We cannot continue the cycle of extending or expanding our military presence in Afghanistan, hoping to create ideal conditions for the withdrawal and expecting a different result.”

Following the announcement, Biden paid a visit to Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery, where the bulk of America’s most recent war dead from Afghanistan and Iraq are buried.

He wandered among the meticulous rows of modest white marble headstones, pausing occasionally to study a name, at times dabbing at his eyes.

“I have trouble these days ever showing up at a veteran’s cemetery and not thinking of my son, Beau,” he said. Beau Biden served in Iraq as a member of the U.S. Army JAG Corps in 2009 before his death from brain cancer in 2015.

“He thought it was the right thing to do,” Biden said, before looking around and adding, “Look at them all.”

— With files from The Associated Press

James McCarten, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

USA

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A mother duck leads her brood of ducklings past some benches in the courtyard at Mark R Isfeld School in Courtenay. Photo by Kailena Krutzmann
Ducklings bring joy to students at Courtenay school

Brood of duckings in the courtyard at Mark R Isfeld School

The current location of Comox Valley Search and Rescue on Moray Avenue in Courtenay. Google Maps photo
Comox Valley Search and Rescue aiming to purchase a roof for their rescuers

Their goal is to raise between $1.2 and $1.5 million, approximately the purchase price of a facility

A bear is seen walking down Alderwood Place in east Courtenay Sunday (May 9) morning. Video screenshot/Kristie Cave
Video: Bears spotted throughout Comox Valley

Hide food sources, keep garbage away: conservation

Carter Woods was first across the line at the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup, Saturday in Altstadt, Germany. File photo
Cumberland mountain biker wins World Cup race in Germany

Carter Woods of Cumberland won a World Cup mountain bike race Saturday… Continue reading

The flowers of Darmera peltata (Indian rhubarb) before the leaves emerge. Photo by Leslie Cox
DUCHESS OF DIRT: Plenty of ‘wow’ factor in the garden in spring

Leslie Cox Special to The Record I can’t help it. I like… Continue reading

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The following is a list of restaurants offering take-out and patio dining. ADOBE STOCK IMAGE
List of Comox Valley restaurants offering take-out, patio dining options

Restaurants in the Comox Valley continue to adapt to government-imposed restrictions in… Continue reading

The only access to 5th Street bridge heading east (toward Lewis Park) is via Anderton Avenue. Photo by Terry Farrell.
Single lane alternating traffic controls on Courtenay bridge now in effect

Single lane alternating traffic on the 5th Street Bridge is now in… Continue reading

Sean Hart, 34, unexpectedly left the Seven Oaks Tertiary Mental Health Facility in Saanich on Nov. 6, 2020 and has now been missing for six months. (Photo courtesy Penny Hart)
Mom still hopeful for Island man who left care six months ago, hasn’t been seen since

Support from community, police keeps search alive for Sean Hart six months after his disappearance

A map of Huu-ay-aht-owned forestry cutblock. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
B.C. First Nations restrict access to territory in wake of forestry standoffs

Huu-ay-aht set up checkpoints after heated and dangerous incidents on southwest Vancouver Island

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a ‘person of interest’ in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
RCMP identify ‘person of interest’ in Kootenay National Park suspicious death

Police are looking for Philip Toner, who was known to a woman found dead near Radium last week

Vancouver Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko (35) makes a save on Winnipeg Jets’ Nate Thompson (11) during second period NHL action in Winnipeg, Monday, May 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade
Vancouver Canucks see NHL playoff hopes dashed despite 3-1 win over Winnipeg

Montreal Canadiens earn final North Division post-season spot

The B.C. legislature went from 85 seats to 87 before the 2017 election, causing a reorganization with curved rows and new desks squeezed in at the back. The next electoral boundary review could see another six seats added. (Black Press files)
B.C. election law could add six seats, remove rural protection

North, Kootenays could lose seats as cities gain more

Most Read