Baylor students share thoughts on fast-approaching deadline to pull troops from Afghanistan

In this file photo released Sunday, Jan. 31, 2021, by Tasnim News Agency, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, second right, meets with a Taliban political team, in Tehran, Iran. A bipartisan experts group is recommending the Biden administration urgently re-open talks with the Taliban to delay a full withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan beyond the May deadline agreed to by the Trump administration. (Tasnim News Agency via AP, File)

By Anne Walker | Staff Writer

During his presidential campaign, President Joe Biden vowed to bring an end to America’s “forever wars.” With the deadline to pull troops out of Afghanistan quickly approaching, Baylor students shared how this war has affected them and whether they agree with the decision to remove American military forces.

Last week, the Afghanistan Study Group, a bipartisan body established by Congress, suggested that the Biden administration abandon the approaching deadline, predicting that “a rash and rushed approach could increase the chances of a breakdown of order in Afghanistan.”

In Doha, Qatar, last year, the Trump administration arranged a peace deal with the Taliban, which designated May 1, 2021 as the deadline for all U.S. troops to exit Afghanistan. Despite reports that the Taliban has largely failed to uphold its side of the deal, Trump continued to reduce US forces throughout Afghanistan in accordance with the agreement. During his last year, Trump withdrew 9,500 troops from Afghanistan.

The Taliban has yet to renounce its connections to Al Qaeda — one of its few responsibilities in the agreement. The peace deal also called for the Taliban to engage in good-faith peace talks with the government in Kabul. So far, Taliban leaders and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani have achieved little in their peace negotiations.

American troops have fought in Afghanistan for 20 years, making it the longest war in American history. President Bush sent the first troops into Afghanistan in 2001 following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Most Baylor students are too young to remember a time before the U.S. invaded Afghanistan.

While the war has been a constant in students’ lives, Flower Mound junior Hannah Yanowitch said she believes that many students remain oblivious to U.S. efforts in Afghanistan.

“Unfortunately, I don’t think that most Baylor students are aware of U.S. relations with Afghanistan,” Yanowitch said.

While Yanowitch finds that the war bears little influence on her personal life, she encourages her peers to remain apprised of developments in Afghanistan.

“It’s important to be informed on foreign policy issues, especially those that have been so widely discussed and influential in presidential campaigns” Yanowitch said.

Boise, Idaho, junior Ally Clemence said she supports the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.

“My cousin, who was in the Marines, was in Afghanistan several years, and it was a very scary time for our family,” Clemence said. “Since I know what it is like to have a loved one fighting there, I definitely would like to see our troops withdrawn from the ‘forever war.’”

The Afghanistan Study Group urged the President to pursue “an immediate diplomatic effort to extend the current May 2021 withdrawal date in order to give the peace process sufficient time to produce an acceptable result.” The group indicated that the question plaguing the U.S. is not when to remove troops from Afghanistan, but how.

“The purpose of the U.S. troop presence should also be clear: not to pursue an endless war but to support a peace process that will allow American troops to return home under conditions that guarantee our national interests,” the report said.

Houston junior John Dagley commented on the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, saying, “you might see another terrorist group or foreign power come in and reverse some of the good stuff we’ve done there, but I think the cost is too much to stay.”

At a North Atlantic Treaty Organization defense meeting later this month, allies will expect the Biden administration to share its decision: either to uphold the current exit deadline or indefinitely postpone the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.