Withdrawing Troops from Afghanistan

Peace Advocate April 2021

Members of a peace march walk to the edge of Ghazni, Afghanistan, June 11, 2018. Fed up with the relentless bloodshed, dozens of ordinary Afghans brave blistered feet and roadside bombs to carry a message of peace across hundreds of miles. Among them are day laborers, farmers, retired army officers and even a bodybuilding champion. (Jim Huylebroek/The New York Times)

This article was updated on April 14th, 2021 to reflect new developments

by Val Moghadam and the Massachusetts Peace Action’s Middle East Working Group

For nearly two decades, MAPA has called for the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. We continue to call for a complete withdrawal of US forces and military contractors from Afghanistan. However, we have been and continue to be concerned about the prospects for a peaceful and secure Afghanistan in the aftermath of a US withdrawal.

With an announcement on Tuesday, April 14th, President Joe Biden has finally committed to an unconditional and complete withdrawal of US forces by September 11th 2021, just shy of 20 years after the initial invasion and occupation. The most important aspect of the announcement is the commitment to withdraw regardless of conditions on the ground. “We’re committing today to going to zero” U.S. forces by Sept. 11, and possibly well before, the official said, adding that Biden concluded that a conditioned withdrawal would be “a recipe for staying in Afghanistan forever.” That’s absolutely right.

Still, there are questions that have yet to be answered. Will private contractors remain in the country? What about special forces operations? Airstrikes? Drones? While the news of troop withdrawal is welcome, antiwar activists will remain vigilant to make sure that this announcement really means that America’s longest war is truly coming to an end. This is a good moment in time to reflect upon US intervention in Afghanistan, which goes back even further than the 2001 invasion.


The American intervention in support of the Mujahideen in the 1980s and the arming of jihadists set off a chain reaction that reverberates to this day. The “collateral damage” includes Afghan women and girls, who are mired in patriarchal structures and fear for their safety. When the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (DRA) was established in April 1978, among its first decrees was compulsory schooling for girls – something that has yet to be achieved more than four decades later. Violence remains endemic and includes the deliberate killings of women in leadership positions.

After the last of the Soviet troops withdrew in February 1989, the Afghan government fell to the Mujahideen in spring 1992. The US washed its hands of Afghanistan and the Mujahideen began to fight  among themselves. The Taliban emerged, brought order to the Mujahideen’s chaos, and restored a modicum of stability, but one that was accompanied by a reign of terror as well. After 9/11, the US invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 in pursuit of Osama bin Laden and installed a government led by Hamid Karzai that was weak and corrupt. The Taliban resurgence in 2006 brought intensified conflict, which continued beyond the 2009 US military surge. The new government, led by Ashraf Ghani since 2014, is deeply divided and unable to secure peace, stability, and development.

MAPA is thus aware of US responsibility for Afghanistan’s instability, violence, and economic chaos. While the withdrawal of US troops is a critical first step towards peace in the country, it hardly absolves the US of its responsibility for the dire situation in Afghanistan today. The US must:

  1. Withdraw all US forces from Afghanistan.
  2. Remove all military contractors from Afghanistan.
  3. Halt all bombing and airstrikes in the country of Afghanistan.
  4. Repeal the 2001 Authorization of Military Force.

In addition, the US must:

  1. Create a dedicated fund for Afghanistan’s reconstruction and social development, to be administered by the appropriate UN agency.
  2. Support a broader mandate for the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) to extend beyond September 2021 so that it can continue its peacebuilding, humanitarian, and governance activities, including a possible peacekeeping force drawn from neighboring countries..
  1. Call upon Pakistan to actively support both a peaceful transition in Afghanistan and efforts toward regional stability.


  • V. M. Moghadam, “Patriarchy, the Taleban and the Politics of Public Space in Afghanistan.” Women’s Studies International Forum, vol. 25, no. 1 (Spring 2002): 19-31.
  • V. M. Moghadam, “Building Human Resources and Women’s Capabilities in Afghanistan: A Retrospect and Prospects.” World Development (22) (6), June 1994, 859-876.
  • Heela Najibullah, “Different Layers of the Afghan Conflict.” The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Peace and Conflict Studies. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-11795-5. See also https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oyPmhMDLEfs.
  • “Afghan Women: A History of Struggle” (documentary, 2007, posted 2013): available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vX-j6hI2hIw  and https://vimeo.com/19768537  (posted in 2013).
  • “Afghanistan War Exposed: An Imperial Conspiracy” (documentary, 2020), available at


Authored by Val Moghadam and the Middle East Working Group