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What US Troop Withdrawal From Afghanistan Means For International Politics, The Future Of Afghanistan’s Government, And U.S-Afghan Relations

U.S. Army 10th Mountain Division soldiers march in formation March 13, 2002 after receiving a pep talk from Col. Frank Wiercinski at the Bagram Air Base near Kabul, Afghanistan.
U.S. Army 10th Mountain Division soldiers march in formation March 13, 2002 after receiving a pep talk from Col. Frank Wiercinski at the Bagram Air Base near Kabul, Afghanistan.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

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President Joe Biden said Wednesday he will withdraw remaining U.S. troops from the “forever war” in Afghanistan, declaring that the Sept. 11 attacks cannot justify American forces still being there 20 years after the deadliest terror assault on the United States.

His plan is to pull out all American forces - numbering 2,500 now - by this Sept. 11, the anniversary of the attacks, which were coordinated from Afghanistan. The drawdown would begin rather than conclude by May 1, which has been the deadline for full withdrawal under a peace agreement the Trump administration reached with the Taliban last year. The decision marks perhaps the most significant foreign policy decision for Biden in the early going of his presidency. He’s long been skeptical about the U.S. presence in Afghanistan. As Barack Obama's vice president, Biden was a lonely voice in the administration who advised the 44th president to tilt towards a smaller counterterrorism role in the country while military advisers were urging a troop buildup to counter Taliban gains. Biden has also made clear he wants to recalibrate U.S. foreign policy to face bigger challenges posed by China and Russia.

Withdrawing all U.S. troops comes with clear risks. It could boost the Taliban's effort to claw back power and undo gains toward democracy and women’s rights made over the past two decades. It also opens Biden to criticism, mostly Republicans and some Democrats, even though former President Donald Trump had also wanted a full withdrawal. While Biden’s decision keeps U.S. forces in Afghanistan four months longer than initially planned, it sets a firm end to two decades of war that killed more than 2,200 U.S. troops, wounded 20,000, and cost as much as $1 trillion. 

Today on AirTalk, we’ll talk about what the troop withdrawal means for the future of U.S.-Afghan relations and for the U.S. presence and influence in the Middle East, and look back on what has happened in the two decades since American troops first landed in Afghanistan following 9/11.

We reached out to the State Department to request that someone be made available, but they were not able to provide a representative for us at the time we requested.

With files from the Associated Press

With guest host Austin Cross


James Schwemlein, senior director at the Albright Stonebridge Group, a global strategic advisory and commercial diplomacy firm, and a nonresident scholar in the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; he is a former senior advisor to the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan at the U.S. State Department; he tweets @JamesSchwemlein

Col. (ret.) Arnold V. Strong, retired U.S. Army colonel and public affairs officer, and former chief of Training and Operations Mentor at Kabul Military Training Center in Afghanistan from 2006-2007, where he trained members of the Afghan National Army; he currently serves as a senior partner at the Long Beach office Global Vantage Capital, a venture capital and private equity firm based in New York City; he tweets @arnoldvstrong