Wednesday, December 8

Biden in an impossible bind as the blame game begins in Afghanistan | Joe biden

TThe words of political leaders may come back to haunt them. “None at all, zero” Joe Biden said last month when asked if he saw any parallels between the US withdrawals from Vietnam and Afghanistan.

“The Taliban is not the North Vietnamese army. They are not remotely comparable in terms of capacity. There will be no circumstance where you will see people being lifted from the roof of the US embassy from Afghanistan. It is not at all comparable. “

Sending an additional 3,000 US troops to help evacuate embassy personnel seems like a preventive measure to avoid such a humiliating sight. Still, with the Taliban on the march and closing in on Kabul, Friday did not stop cable news networks from playing grainy images of Vietnam or the right-wing New York Post in the front page headline. “Biden Saigon”.

A blame game is underway for a problem that defies finger-pointing, simple headlines, or strident certainty, perhaps more than any other. Biden is just the latest American president to stumble upon a hall of mirrors where every argument has a counterargument, every action has a reaction, no escape route is offered, and the only guarantee is that Afghan civilians will lose.

His political career spans the modern era of Afghanistan. He became a United States senator in 1973, the year the country’s last king, Mohammad Zahir Shah, was deposed after a four-decade reign that coincided with one of the most peaceful periods in the country’s history.

Biden remained in the Senate when Ronald Reagan backed the Mujahideen against the Soviet Union occupation and George W. Bush overthrew the Taliban after 9/11. As vice president of Barack Obama, Biden believed in conflict had lasted too long but it was overturned, even after the assassination of Osama bin Laden in neighboring Pakistan.

Now, as president, Biden has removed the bandage, determining that the 20-year war is impossible to win, that counterterrorism priorities lie elsewhere, and that the United States does not have a multi-generational obligation to build the nation. Polls show that his decision to withdraw US forces before the end of the month has massive public support, especially among skeptics of US imperialism.

Still, Biden, known for his empathy, is about to face images of atrocities and human suffering that are a direct consequence of his actions. It is true that “the ball stops here”. But it is also true that there are countless causes dating back at least half a century that are painfully difficult to unravel.

Matthew hoh, who in 2009 resigned in protest from his position in Afghanistan with the State Department over the escalation of the conflict in the United States, said: “This war is a living legacy of the cold war. I was born in 1973; that’s the year the king was deposed. You can never really put a start date in history, but I think that start date is a more accurate start date than 9/11.

“Nearly 50 years of political chaos at best and, more typically, war has brought us to this point. Simple explanations certainly fail, as they should. This notion that somehow the reason that we are seeing Afghanistan, which is happening now with the Taliban at impressive speed, is because Joe Biden pulled 2,500 American soldiers out of a country the size of Texas does not make sense. “

The Taliban have invaded a number of regional capitals in a blitzkrieg offensive since NATO troops withdrew from much of the country following Biden’s decision to pull out. The government army has superior numbers and technology, as well as an air force, but it has lost control of most of the country and appears to be on the brink of collapse. The Taliban are paying little heed to Washington’s warning that it will be rejected by the international community if it takes Afghanistan by force.

The fighting has fueled fears of a refugee crisis and a rollback of recent advances in human rights, particularly for women and girls. Recriminations abound in Washington. Biden said this week that he did not regret his decision, noting that the United States had spent more than $ 1 trillion on its longest war and lost thousands of troops.

But Mitch McConnell, the Republican minority leader in the Senate, said the exit The strategy was sending the United States “hurtling toward an even worse aftermath of the humiliating fall of Saigon in 1975,” and urged the president to provide more support to the Afghan forces. “Without him, al-Qaida and the Taliban can celebrate the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks by setting fire to our embassy in Kabul.”

The sentiments were shared by hardline Republicans like Senator Lindsey Graham and Representative Liz Cheney, which represents a section of the party that remains loyal to Bush’s military interventionism. However, neither has offered a compelling recipe for how to prevent the conflict from dragging on indefinitely.

Hoh, who served as a captain in the US Marine Corps in Iraq and is now a senior member of the think tank at the Center for International Policy, said: “The US is an empire, something that seems Blasphemous to say, but what do you call a nation? that has between 800 and 1,000 foreign military bases? The empire never wants to lose.

“There are many people in Washington who see the world as if it were a Risk game. The comment is what you would expect from people like Mitch McConnell, Liz Cheney, who have never been personally touched by the war, except for campaign contributions and donations.

Republican criticism is also undermined because its dominant pro-Trump faction has little appetite for foreign adventurism. Having long vowed to end America’s wars for good, the then president struck a deal with the Taliban for U.S. troops to withdraw in May in exchange for stopping attacks on U.S. forces and for talks. peace with the Afghan government. This artificial deadline, with the looming threat of a resumption of the attacks, added to Biden’s complex calculation.

Members of the Afghan special forces regroup after heavy clashes with the Taliban in Kandahar province in July.
Members of the Afghan special forces regroup after heavy clashes with the Taliban in Kandahar province in July. Photograph: Danish Siddiqui / Reuters

Anthony Cordesman, A strategic analyst in the think tank of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, who has served as a consultant on Afghanistan for the Pentagon and the State Department, said: a specific peace proposal, and in fact it may have been that if you announced a deadline for withdrawal, you created a situation where there was a serious risk that an already weak and divided Afghan government and force would not survive the outcome. ” .

While Trump and his allies are unlikely to let hypocrisy stop them from imposing the Afghan debacle on Biden, a cynic might conclude that he has little to fear because most Americans do not either. support your reasoning Or I just don’t care He is more likely to be tried at the polls for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the economy or health care than for a war whose moral purpose has long been shrouded in fog.

William Wechsler, an analyst from the Atlantic Council think tank said: “Most Americans don’t have passports, which I remind my friends in Europe all the time.

“When surveyed and told what are the most important issues facing the United States, foreign policy issues generally rank pretty low on the list. The average person in Yorkshire was really proud of the British Empire, from everything I’ve read. Here is a very different psychology. “

The drive to get out of Afghanistan has been building for years, so political backlash It’s likely to be modest, according to Wechsler, a former Obama administration counterterrorism official. “It’s not like Trump and Biden are opposing a strong national political trend. They were following a trend that has been building for a long time.

Now, will Biden be criticized for this? Absolutely. Are there some Americans who feel very strongly about this? Of course. Will Republicans, especially if they can gain control of several houses of Congress after the midterm elections, do the kinds of investigations that will make everyone in the administration miserable? I think there is a good chance of that happening. “

But the most politically problematic scenarios would be a repeat of the chaotic retreat from Saigon in 1975 or the deadly terrorist attack on the US consulate in Libya in 2012. “I suspect that the people of the Biden administration are focused on avoiding those results.” Wechsler said. “You have already seen it with the decisions to transfer forces to secure the airport and order people to leave.

Biden took office with more foreign policy experience than any other US president, focusing on the threat of a rising China. He was dealt a bad hand in Afghanistan and decided to play it decisively. As with Obama dying over the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria, his advocates will frame it as the worst option in an impossible situation. Afghans, enduring another tragedy, may disagree.

David rothkopfAuthor, international relations commentator and author, tweeted on Friday: “America’s policy in Afghanistan has been 20 years of poor decisions and poor execution in the face of insoluble challenge. But of course, it’s in Biden. “

The war in Afghanistan will rank alongside Vietnam as one of America’s great modern strategy and execution failures, Rothkopf added. “Most of the responsibility for that failure rests with previous administrations and the leadership in Kabul (and to some extent with the Taliban facilitators beyond the country’s borders). Biden is doing the right thing and what needs to be done. It’s time to turn the page. “

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