The October 2001 invasion of Afghanistan was prompted by the terrorist attacks in New York and Virginia weeks earlier that killed thousands and were carried out by al-Qaeda operatives trained and directed in the country’s rugged mountains by Osama bin Laden.
Amid confirmation of the Pentagon plans to pare US troop levels in Afghanistan down to 2,500 soldiers by mid-January, retired Chief Petty Officer Robert O’Neill, the US Navy Seal credited with killing bin Laden, sounded off about his opposition to the US staying in the Central Asian country any longer.
“It’s time to get out, especially of Afghanistan,” he flatly stated. However, the former operative didn’t seem to feel the US’ self-described mission of rebuilding Afghan society as democratic and amenable to Western values had been accomplished.
“Whether you like it or not, if you’re in a country for that long you’re an occupier,” he added. US forces have been engaged in Afghanistan since October 2001, when they invaded to overthrow the Taliban, which had provided shelter to al-Qaeda. In the 19 years since, the US and the new Afghan government it set up have fought a steady Taliban insurgency.
This past February, the US and Taliban reached a peace accord that would permit the US to pull its troops out. However, a separate peace deal between the Taliban and the Afghan government, which the Islamist militant group has long derided as an illegitimate US puppet, has yet to be achieved.