Berkeleyan Take on the World

Avatar of Noah Rudolph
Features Column

“To those who carried out this attack, as well as anyone who wishes America harm, know this: We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay.”

This is the statement US President Joe Biden gave the evening of Thursday, August 26, after it was announced that 13 American service members stationed in Afghanistan and nearly 200 Afghans had been killed by suicide bombs at a Kabul airport. Most people in the US have heard about the conflict with Afghanistan. But what exactly is the conflict about? And why is Biden’s response to the deaths of the 13 US personnel, as well as many others, sending the wrong message? 

The date is October 7, 2001. The United States links the 9/11 terrorist attacks to Al-Qaeda, a multinational organization widely regarded as a terrorist group, which at the time operated under the Taliban regime’s protection in Afghanistan. Initiated by US President George W. Bush, US and British forces began airstrikes on Taliban and Al-Qaeda targets in Afghanistan, which continued for five days. This commenced the longest war in US history. 

With nearly 3,000 American deaths and at least 2 trillion dollars spent on the war, America would benefit from peace. That being said, the process of exiting this war should have been treated delicately: nuanced and slow, with the safety of American military members and diplomats in mind, as well as the innocent Afghan civilians not involved with the war. However, this is not how things unfolded. 

On August 14, Biden declared an emergency evacuation with a deadline of August 31 for all personnel stationed in Afghanistan. Thousands of desperate families awaited departure at the airport in Kabul, fearful for their lives as the Afghan president left on a guarded helicopter and the Taliban seized control. Chaos grew as people began climbing onto the wings of airplanes in an attempt to escape the pandemonium below. Next, there were suicide bombings. Central Command Chief General Kenneth McKenzie stated, “We thought this would happen sooner or later.”

Biden and the team behind this decision are somewhat responsible for what happened. However, Biden’s quote suggests that he didn’t expect to see this much violence when evacuating troops. The quote also suggests that the US will “hunt down” and “make pay” the terrorist organizations behind the bombings. Simply put, Biden’s response implies that the people in Afghanistan will continue to be unsafe. 

No matter what, the lives of 13 Americans will still be lost. The US government must scrutinize its own actions, not the actions off its offenders. Was our approach from the very beginning, 20 years ago, wrong as well? When faced with terrorism, why do we choose to respond with our own methods of terrorism? These are the questions needing to be asked.