I Fought in Afghanistan. It's Time to Bring the Troops Home | Opinion

The United States went into Afghanistan after the attacks of September 11, 2001, to bring justice to Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda. I believed in that mission, and I joined the Marines to take part in it. Since then, I've spent years in Afghanistan, first as a Marine infantryman and later as a teacher and logistics specialist.

We've been in Afghanistan for almost 20 years now. We killed bin Laden almost a decade ago. It's well past time for American servicemembers to leave the country.

The terrorist threat to the United States certainly remains, and we should continue to take necessary action to deter and defend against terrorist attacks. America will fight when necessary to protect our homeland and keep our citizens safe. But we cannot continue decades-long, indefinite troop deployments in Afghanistan, Iraq or in every country where a terrorist organization exists.

In Afghanistan, our troops have battled bravely and won hard-fought victories. But these accomplishments have been squandered as American leaders failed to deliver a realistic vision for how to successfully end the war. Since 2001, the U.S. and our allies have attempted to build a self-sufficient Afghan government and military. Nearly 20 years later, the Afghan government remains weak and unable to defeat the Taliban. We have sought to bring democracy to the Afghan people, yet today their government remains unstable and plagued by corruption.

The sacrifices of this war have come at great cost to our country. More than 2,200 brave young men and women in uniform—some of them my friends—have given their lives in service to our nation, and more than 20,000 have been wounded. Thousands of contractors have also died. American military families have sacrificed much, and many of our servicemembers, veterans and their families continue to deal with enduring, invisible wounds of war. All told, we have spent more than $2 trillion of our nation's wealth on this war.

troop withdrawal Afghanistan
U.S. Army soldiers retrieve their duffel bags after they returned home from a 9-month deployment to Afghanistan on December 10, 2020 at Fort Drum, New York. The 10th Mountain Division soldiers who arrived this week are under orders to isolate with family at home or with fellow troops in barracks, finishing their quarantine just before Christmas. In the waning days of the Trump Administration and after 19 years of war, the U.S. military continues to reduce troop levels in Afghanistan. John Moore/Getty Images

That is not to say there have been no successes. American troops eliminated bin Laden and other terrorist leaders, and we provided the time and space for the education of a new generation of young Afghans. That investment may be the best hope for peace and for Afghanistan's future.

Last November, I stated my support for former president Donald Trump's planned drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, and I remain committed to pulling our troops out under the new administration. With the May 1 withdrawal deadline for U.S. servicemembers established by last year's U.S.-Taliban deal fast approaching, I hope President Joe Biden will take the steps necessary to finally bring our troops home.

In my view, President Biden has two acceptable options, neither of which is easy. He can either withdraw American servicemembers from Afghanistan by the May 1 deadline, or—if necessary for the safety of our troops—negotiate an extension that lays out a clear commitment and strategy to complete the withdrawal as soon as possible.

Either option would demonstrate to the American people that the president understands the true costs of two decades of war and agrees with what so many Americans believe to be the right decision: it is time to bring our troops home from Afghanistan.

Jared Golden is the U.S. representative for Maine's Second Congressional District.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.