U.S. Foreign Policy Update
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The author is the president of the Brookings Institution and a former commander of NATO and US forces in Afghanistan
With the continuous occurrence of humanitarian disasters in Afghanistan, the leadership of the United States is facing a series of major challenges. The crisis that is now engulfing us, our allies, and the Afghans is urgent. Although the decision to withdraw is correct, history will judge the way we do this harshly. Much of the judgment will depend on how to resolve the Kabul evacuation issue. However, if the United States is to play a meaningful role in Afghanistan’s future and safeguard some of our national security interests in the region, important policy debates must be launched quickly.
The form adopted by the nascent Taliban government will be one of the most important geopolitical developments in 2021. Their decisions — from supporting the departure of eligible evacuees, to the possibility of harbouring jihadists and criminals, to international relations — will be crucial. How will the democratic world choose to recognize them.
So far, the Taliban have tried to portray themselves as moderate. However, the local facts tell a different story, and we may see a new and violent phase of the struggle in Afghanistan. In view of the weak command and control capabilities of the Taliban and lack of real governance experience, its ultimate regional and global identity is far from being determined.
Jihadists and foreign fighters will Now flocking to Afghanistan. The Taliban never broke with Al-Qaida, and will never break with Al-Qaida. These groups will have a safe haven, enabling them to use the country again as a platform for terrorism and transnational crime.
The Biden administration talked in detail about the “extra-horizon” anti-terrorism capability. They took actions against Boko Haram, Al-Qaida on the Peninsula, and other organizations as examples. They believed that even if the Taliban were in power, terrorism would not flourish in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, Right to use It is a problem in the OTH strategy. The lack of regional bases and potential overflight restrictions will make such strategies extremely challenging, if not impossible. Does leaving Afghanistan really make us and our allies safer?
We have seen Afghanistan being touted by our opponents and competitors as a humiliating failure of American leadership. Since the Trump administration, China has publicly declared that the United States is in absolute decline. This statement has now evolved into public ridicule, and so has Russia. Given Afghanistan’s rich natural resources, China’s mining interests in Afghanistan are obvious. A Central Asian Economic Corridor from Kazakhstan through Afghanistan to Gwadar Port in Pakistan is an imaginable geo-economic achievement that may exclude the United States.
Pakistan’s own terrorists, the Pakistani Taliban, will undoubtedly feel bold because Kabul is behind them. Pakistan-India relations will also enter a new stage. India will pay special attention to anti-Indian terrorist organizations that can now develop without interference. The nuclear impact of repeated attacks like Mumbai in 2008 should be of concern to all of us.
With the withdrawal from Afghanistan, the United States has almost lost all its influence as a major player in Central Asia. The Biden administration argued that our vital interest lies in counter-terrorism, but this is inconsistent with its publicly human rights-oriented foreign policy. With women and minorities losing their security, Afghanistan is facing the end of modernization.
The Biden administration believes that diplomatic, financial, and aid-related levers will force the Taliban to support human rights. However, does international isolation, diplomatic pressure or the threat of financial sanctions have any impact in protecting the Afghan minorities? Will they protect young girls from being trafficked as “brides” of Taliban militants? Will they stop the expansion of Taliban drug companies? What about the inevitable mass proliferation of former military and police weapons?
We should look at the limits of American influence on the Taliban very realistically. It will also be difficult to gather allies for our remaining humanitarian interests. Many of our European allies currently feel betrayed: our decision has also caused them unexpected problems.
It is essential that we clearly see the impact of this moment and prepare for the future. Although our young forces are still fighting the humanitarian disaster at Kabul Airport, the Biden administration and the allies who will join us must now turn to a collective strategy. Facts have proved that Afghanistan has once again become the “cemetery of the empire.” Is it also the graveyard of the US government’s foreign policy and international democratic agenda?