April 1, 2021
U.S. President Joe Biden and his brain trust seem uncertain about if, when and how NATO forces will leave Afghanistan a month before an exit deadline that, if missed, will see American troops come under Taliban fire. To be fair, Biden faced a no-win situation in Afghanistan and deep internal contradictions within the establishment have made a straightforward solution impossible. However, the Biden administration’s incoherent approach and muddled thinking has only exacerbated the dilemma.
There is a nearly irresolvable ideological struggle over Afghanistan in the United States that has made for some interesting bedfellows – with realists and antiwar activists on one side pitted against idealists and the deep state. Yet the most immediate problem may be pure ineptitude given that administration officials are not even singing from the same song sheet.
On March 26, at his first press conference as U.S. commander-in-chief, Biden inexplicably cited “tactical reasons” as an excuse as to why the United States would probably not be able to meet the May 1 withdrawal deadline that is stipulated in the Doha pact. It is difficult to tell if Biden simply went off script with this brand new rationale – which he provided no further details about – one that contradicts everything emanating from the Pentagon, State Department and his own White House aides.
For we were previously led to believe that the reason the U.S. was leery to exit by May 1 was because the Taliban had failed to cut ties with al-Qaeda. Other popular excuses included fear of Kabul imploding and lack of progress in the intra-Afghan talks. Then there was the congressional report in February that called for leaving behind an “independent, democratic, and sovereign Afghan state,” that was strong enough to defend itself and protect women’s rights and a free press.
The reality is that the Biden administration has been in over its head and is afraid to admit that it wasted time pursuing a faulty strategy that will now put American troops at risk.
In a letter leaked to the press in early March, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Afghan President Ashraf Ghani that the United States was considering a full withdrawal by May 1 but was also mulling other options because they feared the “security situation will worsen and that the Taliban could make rapid territorial gains.” Washington, Blinken said, was putting together a 90-day ceasefire proposal and pushing a diplomatic path to prevent the Taliban from launching a spring offensive.
In addition, Blinken said the U.S. was concerned about the escalating violence and wanted to see steps taken towards reaching a comprehensive and inclusive political settlement.
Nowhere in this letter – it is worth noting – can the word “tactical” be found among the concerns listed.
Meanwhile, as the State Department suggests the United States is considering a full exit, The New York Times reported last week that the U.S. intelligence community has warned Biden that Afghanistan will fall under the control of the Taliban and al-Qaeda if Western troops leave before a power-sharing deal is reached.
It would be interesting to see the evidence that has convinced the U.S. intelligence community that prolonging a military presence in Afghanistan will signiﬁcantly improve the odds of the Taliban changing course. Preventing Afghanistan from becoming a terrorist safe haven, moreover, is an immeasurable objective that will guarantee the United States remains in this forever war.
For starters, how would the U.S. ever really know whether or not the Taliban have truly severed ties with al-Qaeda? Furthermore, what type of metrics or evidence would the U.S. need to see in order to be conﬁdent that Afghanistan will not become a launching pad for terrorist attacks?
Journalist Caitlan Johnstone adeptly exposes the establishment’s disinformation and the media that peddle it.
“The New York Times and the U.S. intelligence cartel (if one can even categorize these as separate entities at this point) are trying to spin the ongoing military presence in Afghanistan as a temporary situation awaiting conditions which will be arriving shortly, and that’s simply false,” Johnstone wrote in Strategic Culture on March 28. “The Taliban will not voluntarily choose to make itself less powerful.”
In terms of deeper geopolitical reasons, there are elements within the security establishment that do not want the U.S. to abandon the region for strategic reasons. Much of this is driven by raw Sinophobia, Russophobia, and animus for the clerics in Tehran. Some analysts perceive the U.S. reluctance to leave as a byproduct of Washington’s new Cold War with Beijing.
“America will lose a Central Asia outpost from which to influence events in neighboring Xinjiang,” Political commentator Dan Lazare told Sputnik after Biden’s press conference. “CIA armchair strategists are concerned because the dismemberment of China remains the ultimate U.S. goal.”
Many argue that a hasty retreat will deal a blow to the United States’ global reputation and fear witnessing an embarrassment like the American evacuation of Saigon in 1975. Others cringe at the thought of a Taliban takeover. However, it was also the fear of the Vietcong taking over that kept the U.S. in Vietnam for so long. Then again, with respect to Vietnam, America was eventually able to overcome these collective mental hurdles. It is about time to do the same regarding Afghanistan.