Pizza and Politics: Afghanistan

Photo by: Anya Hayes

After 20 years, the United States finally ended its involvement in Afghanistan. Students were eager to attend the Pizza and Politics event on the decision held by Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics and Public Service on Wednesday, Sept. 15. 

Ashley Cannon and Julia Last, members of the executive council for the Leavitt Center, informed students about the history of Afghanistan from 1920-1998, and the history of U.S. involvement since 1999. 

Additionally, the presentation covered the deadly event that influenced President George W. Bush to deploy troops to Afghanistan, 9/11. 

The issue of U.S. involvement is a controversial topic. So, when Last asked the audience, “Was our involvement in Afghanistan justified,” there was a multitude of responses 

Eliza Barton, a Southern Utah University student, claimed that since the United Nations announced its involvement in Afghanistan, the U.S. involvement was justified. Other students among the audience disagreed. 

The most controversial issues of the night were the comparisons made between each presidential administration’s handling of the war in Afghanistan. After a brief explanation of each presidential term, the moderators asked the audience members about each administration’s actions. 

Cannon introduced the history of the Bush administration with the fact that he started Operation Enduring Freedom, also known as the war on terrorism, in response to Al-Qaeda’s terrorist attack

Cannon then asked, “How do you think the Bush administration handled the situation in Afghanistan?” 

“The Bush administration used the tragedy of 9/11 and took the public’s fears to justify actions for national and international interest,” Clayton Price, an SUU senior said. 

SUU freshman Gabe Short agreed, saying that a response was necessary because the event was so devastating. 

Cannon proceeded to explain the actions Obama’s administration took during the war. She explained that his administration sent 17 thousand more troops to Afghanistan in order to prevent another terrorist attack from happening and to suppress a Taliban resurgence.

Cannon asked, “How do you think the Obama administration handled the situation in Afghanistan?” 

“I don’t think anyone wanted another 9/11 to happen,” said Lauren Costanza, an SUU sophomore. “So that is why Obama decided to send more troops.” 

Some audience members disagreed with Costanza, stating they couldn’t understand why the administration did not remove U.S. forces after the administration killed Osama Bin Laden or why the administration thought it beneficial to send more troops.

After the Obama administration and the death of Bin Laden, 66 percent of Americans said the war has not been worth fighting. So when Donald Trump entered office, there was a national push to end the war. 

Last explained that Trump advised against a hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan. On Feb. 28, 2020 Trump signed the U.S and Taliban Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan which ensured withdrawal of U.S troops by May 1st, 2021 in exchange for the Taliban’s promise to prevent acts of terrorism. 

Last asked, “How do you think the Trump Administration handled the situation in Afghanistan?”

Jacob Gunderson, an SUU student, expounded that the Trump administration did the best it could with the situation it inherited. Trump was tasked with nation building in Afghanistan, but it was hard to rebuild infrastructure since the country was so violent. 

Last then explained how Biden’s administration handled the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. Biden planned to complete withdrawal by 9/11, an open ended-date that was extended to Aug. 31. In the days leading up to the deadline, most major cities were controlled by the Taliban.

“How do you think the Biden Administration handled the situation in Afghanistan?” Cannon asked.

“I think it was terrible, I feel like there was a hasty decision made and keeping to the deadline was more important than keeping civilians safe” stated Gabe Short, an SUU freshman. 

Executive Council Member Olivia Johnson refuted.

“I think the Biden Administration did the best that they could with a complicated situation,” said Johnson, ”A situation that was initiated by the Trump Administration.

The last question of the event posed to the audience was, “Does the U.S. have an obligation to Afghan refugees?”

“Yes,” Costanza said. “We were in this country for over 20 years. We definitely have an obligation to help these people.”

The Leavitt center will explore refugee status and admittance on Oct. 6. 

The next Pizza and Politics event is next Wednesday, Sept. 22 at noon. Members of the Leavitt Center will present on voting rights and will discuss with its audience members in room ST. 112. 

Story by: Danielle Meuret

Photo by: Anja Hayes