Buckle up for Biden’s failed Afghanistan policy. Shockwaves are about to begin and will continue until intervention is again required. If the goal was to create maximum instability, kill the peace option, inflame Afghans, incite Taliban, encourage ISIS and Al Qaida, empower China to take rare earths, and set up another 9/11 attack, Biden could not have done better. Unfortunately, those are not U.S. foreign policy goals.
Under Trump, the U.S. government agreed — as leverage for peace between Afghans and Taliban, and to prevent a future terrorist state — to pull U.S. troops by May 1, 2021. The goal was understood, the peace process underway, engagement full. Then came Biden.
Biden’s team pulled the plug on peace, disincentivizing all parties, and declared they were walking away — a complete U.S. and NATO troop pullout — by September 11, 2021. No conditions. Gone was the basis for peace, sustained tripwire engagement.
Afghanistan is not on a trajectory for internal peace without US and NATO engagement. Quite the reverse: Despite all blood and treasure spent, without peace Afghanistan will devolve into a terrorist haven.
The future of Afghanistan — without three-way peace talks enforced by military and intelligence presence — will be more unstable than what preceded it, which precipitated 9/11.
Specifically, Taliban, al Qaida, and ISIS will vie for power. Terrorism will be resurgent, each actor moving into the vacuum. Weak Afghan leaders, with no backstop, will be storm-tossed. warlords and mass drug trafficking (heroin) will return and finance newly empowered terrorist organizations and ambitions.
All that was spent, lost, and given since that fateful day in 2001 when so many Americans died at the hands of Afghanistan-based terrorists, will be lost. While the honor of individual soldiers and nobility of aim remains, the objective three presidents had in sight — peace — will be forsaken.
That goal – a fragile, enforceable peace — long sought, hard fought, nearing culmination — was within reach. After Biden’s ill-conceived “9/11/21” troop pullout announcement, the goal is essentially beyond grasp, almost certainly beyond an abandoned, weak Afghan government.
The folly of this Biden act — notion that foreign policy can centered on wishful war-weary thinking — is that we will pay a terrible price for what amounts to political cowardice.
The price will be layered, immediate, and prolonged. Initially, delayed troop pullout will bring Taliban sniping, targeted attacks on U.S. and allied forces. Then an infection of instability will spread to the government. Next internecine warfare between terror groups, warlords, heroin traffickers, and hybrids will begin.
From that chaotic mess, three outcomes are predicable. First, civil order — all the hope that attached to democratic forms, anti-corruption, rule of law, institution and capacity building — will all go away. That will be Casualty Number One of Biden’s abandonment.
Second will be the return of terror bases in the country, followed by ambitions for new power projection against the West. The Taliban, al Qaida, ISIS, and peripheral groups — including those with ties to Iran — do not have our interests, or those of the Afghan people, at heart.
Third, China will capitalize on our absence to secure Afghan rare earths by direct force or bribery of those in control, once we are gone. Ironically, China already controls most of the world’s rare earths — vital for semiconductors used from weapons systems to cars. This will give China a leg up.
A final irony – a bitter pill that shows Biden’s timidity, short-sightedness, or stupidity — is the false idea that Biden can declare “peace in our time” (to quote Chamberlain) on the 20th anniversary of 9/11. How absurd, inapt, and pathetic. That date is burned in our minds – as a date we stand up to terror, not walk away from it. Why would we cower, retreat, and disengage on that date?
No, this whole Biden push to get out of Afghanistan without anything to show for heavy losses and our commitment to securing the future, the idea that we can look away from the world’s worst outposts, ignoring what abandonment means, hoping for the best — is pure folly. Unfortunately, odds are we will pay dearly for disengaging — as history teaches. Buckle up, prepare for shockwaves, and know t this poor decision comes with extended costs.
Robert Charles is a former Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, a former Reagan and Bush 41 White House staffer, a ten-year naval intelligence officer, author of Narcotics and Terrorism (2003), Eagles and Evergreens (2018), and is the National Spokesman for the Association of Mature American Citizens (AMAC) a 2.3 million-strong, non-partisan group for Americans 50+.
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