US Papers Debate How and When to End Afghanistan War

“The Washington Post” vs. “The New York Times”
The Washington Post Co. headquarters stands in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, Aug. 5, 2013. (Getty)

Last week, as President Joe Biden officially announced that the US troops will leave Afghanistan by September 11, 20 years after the terrorist attack on the US that ignited the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) that was announced then by former President George W. Bush, a “war” of comments, analysis and reckoning started in the US.

Two editorials by the two leading daily newspapers in the US, “The Washington Post” and “The New York Times,” illustrated the US polarization about the longest war in its history, and were, also, reckonings of the start of the GWOT when the two newspapers, also, illustrated the American mood at that time.

That mood was positive, and the two newspapers enthusiastically supported Bush’s GWOT, as detailed in a 2006 book: “Bush’s War: Media Bias and Justification for War in a Terrorist Age,” by Jim Kuypers, a communications professor at Virginia Tech University.

The two liberal newspapers, “The Post” and “The Times,” also enthusiastically supported the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, although, later, both apologized for their inaccurate, and pro-Bush, reporting of the events that led to the invasion.

But there has been no apology for the initial support of Bush's GWOT and the invasion of Afghanistan.

Now, after 20 years of occupation, as a result of that invasion, the two newspapers disagreed on how, and when, to end the occupation:

On one side, an editorial in “The Post” warned of Biden’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan, with a title, “The Likely Result is Disaster.”

On the other side, “The Times” saw no disaster, and suggested, in an earlier editorial’s headline: “A Regional Effort to Stabilize Afghanistan.”

The importance of these editorials, as different from opinions by each newspaper’s columnists, and by outside contributors, is illustrated by each newspaper’s claim that these editorials were separate from their news coverage:

“The Post” declared that “The separation of news columns from the editorial pages is solemn and complete. This separation is intended to serve the reader, who is entitled to the facts in the news columns and to opinions on the editorial and ‘op-ed’ pages.”

For “The Times,” "The editorial board is a group of opinion journalists whose views are informed by expertise, research, debate and certain longstanding values. It is separate from the newsroom."

Here are excerpts from the two opposing editorials:

“The Washington Post”

“Biden Takes the Easy Way out of Afghanistan. The Likely Result is Disaster”:

“ … Mr. Biden’s choice was to leave U.S. forces in place, risking renewed conflict with the Taliban, or go forward with the pullout — even though it could lead to the collapse of the Afghan army and government …

The bargain struck by the Trump administration with the Taliban required it to:

(A) Break all ties with al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups. According to U.N. and U.S. military officials, it has not done so.

(B) Nor has it been willing to negotiate seriously with the Afghan government about a peaceful settlement.

(C) It rejected a Biden administration proposal for a conference in Turkey to jump-start those talks, and it ridiculed U.S. proposals for a power-sharing arrangement with the government, as well as for new elections.

(D) The group’s leaders project the conviction that they will easily rout the government militarily once the United States leaves, and restore a harsh “Islamic emirate” such as the one they fashioned in the 1990s …

(S)ome officials say hopefully, the Taliban will moderate its denial of women’s rights and other repressive policies to preserve international aid, without which Afghanistan’s economy would implode.

If that assessment proves wrong, Mr. Biden’s decision to remove U.S. forces by the symbolic date of Sept. 11, 2021, may simply result in the restoration of the 2001 status quo, including terrorist bases that could force a renewed U.S. intervention …

At a minimum, it will mean an abandonment of those Afghans who believed in building a democracy that guaranteed basic human rights — and the nullification of the sacrifices of the American servicemen who were killed or wounded in that mission. Mr. Biden has chosen the easy way out of Afghanistan, but the consequences are likely to be ugly.”

The New York Times building is seen on June 30, 2020 in New York City. (Getty)

 

“The New York Times”

“How to End a Forever War. The Biden administration should support a regional effort to stabilize Afghanistan.”:

“For years, the stalemate in Afghanistan has left American officials torn between two bad options:

(A) Prop up a corrupt, hopelessly divided Afghan government indefinitely or,

(B) Admit defeat and go home, leaving the country to its fate …

The U.S.-led effort in Afghanistan is already the longest war in American history. A consensus has been forming that it is time for U.S. troops to come home …

Mr. Biden opposed the Obama-era surge in Afghanistan and wrote in the spring *2020) in “Foreign Affairs” magazine that “it is past time to end the forever wars.”

But an American withdrawal does not have to mean ending financial support for the Afghan people or leaving the region in chaos.

The United States has a moral obligation to work with regional partners to try to clean up the mess we are leaving behind.

The United States would benefit from having a strategic vision for the region that was bigger than “no Al Qaeda.”

The Biden administration is better positioned to test the limits of regional diplomacy. While it is far from clear that Afghan talks can negotiate a political settlement that will end the war between the Taliban and the Afghan government, a coordinated regional approach is more likely to produce success than a rapid unilateral American withdrawal.

American soldiers should not be held hostage to a peace agreement that might never come. But with U.S. troops down to 2,500 soldiers, some portion of which is needed as a security umbrella for the embassy, the costs of the U.S. effort in Afghanistan have fallen sharply …”