Comment: What troop pullout means for U.S. global security

Leaving Afghanistan allows the U.S. to reposition itself as the world’s strongest democracy.

By Rick Larsen / For The Herald

President Biden’s announcement that he will withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan later this year is a confirmation of the National Defense Strategy that prioritizes China and Russia as the main threats to U.S. interests (although for different reasons).

Since 2011, the constant refrain of a conditions-based withdrawal morphed into a self-perpetuating argument to permanently remain in Afghanistan. Instead, Biden’s strategy recognizes the threat of terrorism is diffuse and complex, not confined to one set of political borders on a map.

China is the biggest loser in Biden’s Afghanistan decision. For the better part of two decades, China’s authoritarian foreign policy has relied heavily on a distracted United States, caught in endless wars and sometimes absent from its strategic leadership as the world’s strongest democracy. The president’s announcement officially ended China’s ability to act free of the United States’ presence in the world. The U.S. can now properly turn its attention to the guidance President Biden provided in his interim National Security Strategy, including seeking cooperation with Chinese officials on climate change and Northeast Asian security while competing with its government on trade, technology and human rights.

Some foreign policy hawks will criticize President Biden’s decision by warning of the likely return of the Taliban. However, the Taliban never left Afghanistan because Afghanistan is their home. The U.S. challenge in Afghanistan has always been an Afghan government that could not govern. Despite that challenge, U.S. and allied presence in Afghanistan has spurred a rise in literacy and an increased role of women in Afghan society and government. Through diplomatic and humanitarian channels, the U.S. will continue to be actively engaged in Afghanistan.

I do not want to downplay the challenges ahead, chief among them the Taliban’s response to the United States’ withdrawal and the Afghan government’s reaction. But the world has changed in the 20 years since 2001. Even without a U.S. military presence, the eyes of the world will be on Afghanistan and the Taliban in particular.

The United States is now on a clear path toward pursuing its national and economic security interests. Last month, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan made a strong declaration of U.S. interests when meeting with Chinese leaders in Anchorage, Alaska. And recently, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin announced an increased troop presence in Germany and a renewed U.S. commitment to NATO. Meanwhile, President Biden’s American Jobs Plan will invest in jobs and infrastructure here at home, boosting U.S. strength and competitiveness abroad.

By aligning the national focus and resources with long-term strategic interests, the U.S. is once again positioned to lead as the strongest democracy in the world.

Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., is a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee. Larsen represents Washington’s Second Congressional District, which stretches from Mountlake Terrace in the south and Bellingham in the north and includes all of Island and San Juan counties.

Talk to us

More in Opinion

toon
Editorial cartoons for Saturday, May 8

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

A reporter watches the Maricopa County ballots cast in the 2020 general election being examined and recounted by contractors working for Florida-based company, Cyber Ninjas, who was hired by the Arizona State Senate at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, Thursday, April 29, 2021. (Rob Schumacher/The Arizona Republic via AP, Pool)
Editorial: Wyman right to object to Arizona ballot audit

An authority on election integrity, Washington’s secretary of state sees red flags in a rogue recount.

Schwab: Do Republicans intend to take nation down with them?

When they’re not attacking fair proposals for good government, they’re nodding off like Ted Cruz.

Comment: When women sought independence they got Mother’s Day

Women’s suffrage leaders wanted recognition of their rights. They soon soured on a empty holiday.

Harrop: Biden’s policies more aligned with Truman than FDR

On issues related to economic equity and civil rights, Biden’s plans recall Truman’s Fair Deal.

New owners reopen Marysville tea shop

Attic Secrets re-grand opening is here! Many hours, sweat, blood and tears… Continue reading

toon
Editorial cartoons for Friday, May 7

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

children homeless students
Editorial: Joint program connecting homeless families, school

A multi-partner program is removing barriers that keep children out of school and caught in poverty.

Gary Holt, who reads bills being considered in the Washington House, wears a mask as he sits behind a plexiglass shield with reflections of state representatives meeting remotely on it, Wednesday, April 21, 2021, at the Capitol in Olympia Wash. The House was considering a proposed new tax in Washington state on capital gains that would be imposed on the sale of stocks and bonds in excess of $250,000. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Editorial: The ‘forgotten astronaut’ and the state GOP

Republican lawmakers in Olympia can appreciate the position of Apollo 11’s Michael Collins.

Most Read