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#Analize / Mălina Mîndruțescu

How Afghanistan damaged US standing abroad

A week after the US evacuation strategy of American troops unravelled, leaving the country’s capital, Kabul to fall under Taliban control in less than a few days, the situation in Afghanistan is still a conundrum for the Biden Administration, military personnel and national security experts alike.

What the rapid developments in Afghanistan have shown was a complete mismanagement of the situation by the Biden Administration, a misstep that will hunt the Democratic president’s future prospects to a second term in office, his wider presidential reputation, but also US foreign policy and the country’s standing in the world for a long time coming.

According to The New York Times, a few days after President Biden announced in April that he will start the evacuation process of all American troops from Afghanistan, ending America’s longest and most expensive war, this move came as a popular respite to a country that has been involved in the region for over 20 years, has spent over 2 trillion dollars in Afghanistan and lost close to 4000 US military personnel.

However, what the President failed to disclose during his press conference back in April 2021 was that this move was more a presidential order, rather than a collective assessment of military and national security specialists from Joe Biden’s inner circle, that was in agreement with this strategy.

Even though this move had been criticised by President Biden’s generals, who were in objection with this swift evacuation strategy, certain scenarios were put in place, in order to obey the president’s orders. However, none of the scenarios could really predict what would actually unravel in just a manner of days. Simply put, the generals, the national security advisers, the top diplomats and aides from President Biden’s inner circle could not foresee what wold follow.

afghanistan us army

Photo source: New York Times

 

“Biden administration officials consistently believed they had the luxury of time. They had more confidence in Afghan President, Ashraf Ghani, who fled Kabul as it fell, the military commanders overestimated the will of the Afghan forces to fight for their own country and underestimated how much the American withdrawal would destroy their confidence”, says the same NYT analysis.

As many renowned foreign outlets around the world have alluded to, the US evacuation strategy under President Biden and its monumentally catastrophic execution joins a long list of failed US foreign policy actions.

Indeed, Afghanistan has had a long history of failed foreign interventions, that has left the country in shambles: politically, economically and strategically. Whether it’s the Anglo-Afghan wars that started in the 1830s and lasted over 70 years, to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the US and NATO invasion in the early 2000s, the Middle-Eastern country has been haunted and caught in the middle by myriad problems relating to foreign strategy, bad or overconfident intentions, mismanagement, bad policy and bad execution.

Last, but not least, is also President’s Biden extremely disappointing foreign policy agenda, despite his almost 50 years in public service in some of the highest and most renowned positions in US politics – Senator, Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee in the US Senate, Vice-President and then President of the United States. Despite his reputation as a foreign policy expert, his record on many of the fundamental issues that have shaped US foreign policy in recent decades has been on the wrong side of history.

us army

Photo source: Getty Images

 

According to The Atlantic’s Peter Wehner, there is a long list of foreign policy debacles that has shaped Biden’s record on foreign policy:

“In 1975, Biden opposed giving aid to the South Vietnamese government during its war against the North, ensuring the victory of a brutal regime and causing a mass exodus of refugees. In 1991, Biden opposed the Gulf War, one of the most successful military campaigns in American history. Not only did he later regret his congressional vote, but in 1998, he criticized George H. W. Bush for not deposing Saddam Hussein, calling that decision a ‘fundamental mistake’. In 2003, Biden supported the Iraq War—another congressional vote he later regretted. In 2007, he opposed President George W. Bush’s new counterinsurgency strategy and surge in troops in Iraq, calling it a ‘tragic mistake’. In fact, the surge led to stunning progress, including dramatic drops in civilian deaths and sectarian violence. According to Obama’s memoir A Promised Land, Biden had advised the former president to take more time before launching the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Ten years ago, Biden said in an interview that ‘the Taliban per se is not our enemy’. He added, ‘If, in fact, the Taliban is able to collapse the existing government, which is cooperating with us in keeping the bad guys from being able to do damage to us, then that becomes a problem for us’”.
nation building

Photo source: New York Times

 

America has long failed to turn George Bush’s “nation building” ambition into reality, namely to transform Afghanistan into a democracy. Nation-building is no easy task, and for the United States, whose main task of dismantling al Qaeda’s operational base and kill Osama bin Laden has long been achieved, this problem could be reversed and become a real problem, one of that has been solely America’s doing.

This foreign policy debacle will remain a stain in modern US history. the Administrations and the president’s inner circle failed to recognise the incredible ability of these insurgent groups, undervaluing their ability to organise themselves – president Biden’s top intelligence aides strongly believed that a Taliban takeover would take at least 18 months. This happened in a matter of days.

And then, there is President Biden himself and how his own take, presence and approach to this crisis has unfolded in the last week and a half. In his demeanour, addresses and press conferences he’s had so far since the crisis started to unfold, President Biden has failed to show even a modicum of care for the wellbeing of Afghan people.

While military dogs of US troops had been evacuated from Kabul, Afghan citizens, who have acted as liaisons, translators and essential aides to the US military on the field, were left at the hands of the Taliban, who will most likely kill them, if they find out about their treachery. And Biden did not have to stick to Donald Trump’s plan or timetable. He could have shown patience and a more strategic take on the issue.

In return, “America’s power to deter its enemies and reassure its friends has diminished. Its intelligence was flawed, its planning rigid, its leaders capricious and its concern for allies minimal”, says The Economist about America’s fiasco in Afghanistan.

 

Photo source: New York Times

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