Stay or Go? Biden, Long a Critic of Afghan Deployments, Faces a Deadline
WASHINGTON – The last two presidents of the United States announced that they wanted to bring all US troops out of Afghanistan, and they finally decided they could not do so.
Now President Biden is facing the same issue, whose deadline is less than three months.
The Pentagon, uncertain as to what the new Commander-in-Chief will do, is preparing for changes on the plan to stay, plans to leave and withdraw very slowly – a reflection of the debate now looming in the White House. The current deadline is in the wake of a much-violated peace deal on May 1, which calls for the full withdrawal of the remaining 2,500 US forces.
The deadline is an important decision point for Mr. Biden, and it will come months before the 20th anniversary of the 11th, 2001, terrorist attacks that prompted the US leadership of Afghanistan to attack al-Qaeda.
Two decades later, strategic goals changed several times, from terrorism and democratization to nation-building, and even more limited goals that President Barack Obama’s administration called “Afghan good enough.” Mr. Biden – who argued for minimal attendance as vice president during Mr. Obama’s term – must decide whether his tendency to exit will follow? The risk of an acquisition is very high Major cities in the country by the Taliban.
Mr. Biden, a senior aide, said that the United States began its long career in the Senate just before the evacuation of its personnel from Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam; The image of helicopters robbing Americans and some Vietnamese from the rooftops was an important symbol of a failed strategy. Mr. Biden is aware of the risks of some similar transpiring in Kabul, the Afghan capital, if all Western troops leave, and has privately described the prospect as haunting, the aide said.
But the president also questions whether the small remaining contingent of Americans can achieve anything after 20 years in which nearly 800,000 American troops have been deployed, or whether it will ever be possible to bring them home.
Mr. Biden expected President Donald J. to expect continuity in dealing with the Taliban and the Afghan government. Zalmay Khalilzad, a long-time diplomat who negotiated a peace deal under Trump, has been replaced. But the Chief Adviser on the issue was Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan – along with John Finer, are Mr. Sullivan’s deputy.
By all accounts, Mr. Biden will be guided by his own experience, and he has yet to make a decision. The allies will be looking for some clues at the NATO summit that begins on Wednesday, although Mr. Biden’s aides say they are not making an important decision.
National Security Council spokesman Emily J. Hornay said, “We are rigorously reviewing the situation we have inherited, including all the relevant options and full attention to the consequences of any possible course of action.” “It would be wrong for anyone to assume the outcome of that process at this point.”
At the same time, the Taliban and the Afghan government are gearing up for a violent spring. Administration officials began discussions last week about moving forward with Afghan officials whom Mr. Trump pulled out of his agreement with the Taliban.
In consideration, according to one option, the May 1 military withdrawal deadline will be extended by six months to allow all parties more time to determine the time to proceed. But it is unclear whether the Taliban would agree – or Mr. Biden would.
At the center of the decision is a new US president who had to stand for 20 years, while other leaders ignored his advice on Afghanistan and committed large numbers of American soldiers to the war effort, rejecting his argument That all the united essential states had a well-organized, concentrated terrorism presence.
This decision is difficult because if Mr. Biden decides to withdraw, he will bear some responsibility – and a lot of blame – if the elected Afghan government collapse that American soldiers and their NATO allies fought and died and spent billions. The price of the dollar has been rising.
According to the foreign policy decisions facing the president, he and his senior national security aides do not consider Afghanistan the most far-reaching. The right relationship with China is far more central to American prosperity. Under Mr. Biden’s promise to keep Russia’s promise not to roll over the United States is more important for its security. The Iranian nuclear program focuses on calculations from the Middle East. Afghanistan is very personal to him, and the most influential voice that the President will hear can be his own.
“His head is high in the game because he has been connecting with these people around the world for years,” said Brian Katulis, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. .
Mr. Katulis recalled Mr. Biden at the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, Pakistan, in 2008, when the president was a senator visiting the country under a congressional visit with his colleagues John Kerry, who would become secretary of state, and Chuck Hagel. , Who became the Secretary of Defense. It was midnight at the hotel’s executive club, Mr. Katulis recalled, and Mr. Biden wanted to chat in South Asia. For two hours.
“He was fed up with the issue,” Mr. Katulis said.
The May 1 deadline, contained in a peace deal with the Taliban nearly a year earlier, was Defense Secretary Lloyd J. The focus of the meeting will be in Brussels this week of allied defense ministers including Austin III. NATO’s allies in Afghanistan now have more than twice as many troops as there are Americans, and as they estimate their commitment to the country, they are looking to Mr. Biden and Mr. Austin for a road map.
The president is already being advocated by the same voices who have advocated for at least a limited military presence in Afghanistan for the past 20 years.
In December, before Mr. Biden was inaugurated, the Bipartisan, Congress-appointed Afghan Study Group, run by the United States Institute of Peace, met with its foreign policy advisors. Report on Afghanistan. The report, which was released on 3 February, argued, in essence, to drop the May 1 timetable by stating that the Taliban had not met the conditions for a US withdrawal, as determined by the Trump-Taliban agreement.
The group said that going for zero troops in the form of the Trump-Taliban pact would lead to civil war, bring back American interests in the region and present the sacrifice of 3,500 coalition soldiers who sued the US-led war effort in Afghanistan. Were driving. .
John f kirbyThe new Pentagon secretary insisted that the Biden administration stood by the agreement, with its commitment to full military withdrawal, but expressed pessimism that the Taliban would do what they were about to do: cut ties with al Qaeda and violence reduce to.
“Without them fulfilling their commitments to abandon terrorism and prevent violent attacks against Afghan national security forces, it is very difficult to see a specific path forward for settlement negotiations,” Mr. Kirby said. “But we are still committed to it.”
But that was the standard line from the Pentagon even during the Trump administration. It is not clear at this point where Mr. Biden falls on the spectrum.
While he was vice president, he battled Pentagon leaders, urging his boss, Mr. Obama, to limit the number of American troops in Afghanistan.
“Joe and a large number of NSC employees,” Mr. Obama wrote in his memoir, “A Promised Land,” General Stanley A. A proposal by McHistras to increase the number of thousands of troops in the country was seen “as the latest” by an unethical army attempting to pull the country deeper into futile, wildly expensive nation-building exercises, when we consider counter-terrorism efforts Should be narrowly focused. “
Although Mr. Biden lost the argument in 2009, Mr. Obama hovered around his position by the end of his presidency and hundreds of Americans and allied troops were killed and the benefits of the increase mostly lost to the Taliban.
Now Mr. Biden must decide whether it is possible to defeat terrorist groups, even if physical contingents are not present. Allies say he is fully aware that most Americans are tired of the war and suspects that spending in blood and treasury will continue, accomplishing anything. And Afghanistan has, without doubt, admitted to public consciousness.
For Mr. Biden, it could make an immediate change that Afghanistan is again used as a base from which to launch another terrorist attack on the United States or Western targets. For one example, all he needs to do is to look at Iraq and the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, which was withdrawn in 2011 by Mr. Obama after the US military’s campaign to deal there.
Critics say the Taliban has not yet promised to cut ties with Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups threatening the United States, as the February 2020 agreement called for.
In addition, some analysts say the Taliban, because of the battlefield and success at the bargaining table in Qatar in winning the release of more than 5,000 prisoners, are confident they can wait for a new administration and much to compromise Give less incentive.
General Joseph F. Dunford Jr., a retired four-star Marine general and a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who helped lead the Afghan study group, said the United States still had an advantage. General Dunford, a former top commander in Afghanistan, said that beyond escalating war pressure, the Taliban seek international recognition as a legitimate political movement and seek relief from punishing economic sanctions.
An alternative to gaining traction among some former diplomats and Afghanistan experts is to extend a month for the military’s withdrawal deadline, with Washington, working with its allies. The new administration will get time for peace talks in Qatar; Rally support from other states of the region including Pakistan; And a new assessment of the future terrorism threat in Afghanistan.
“It won’t be easy, but it’s possible,” Laurel E. Miller, a former Obama Department official who worked on diplomacy for Mr. Obama and Mr. Trump in Afghanistan and Pakistan. “The Taliban are interested in continuing this process because the process is working for them.”
If that approach fails, however, if the United States decides to keep its 2,500 troops in the country beyond the May deadline, the Taliban threatens to resume attacks against American and other NATO forces. Has given The US military is now closed in about a dozen bases and performs two main missions: counter-terrorism operations and advising Afghan security forces on various headquarters.
Pentagon officials say that preparing for the possibility of a renewed attack against the Americans, the Army’s Central Command has been ordered to give the option that the soldiers stay or go and even higher levels Prepare a wide range of options for combating terrorists.
For example, the administration may temporarily increase the number of troops in the country, reverse it. Mr. Trump’s order to cut forces In the last weeks of his term. For Mr. Biden, this may prove politically risky as they attempt to pursue high-priority legislation, such as epidemic relief, through Congress.
Another option would be to increase the number of US air strikes against Taliban targets across the country, such as combatants threatening major Afghan cities such as Kabul and Kandahar. Military officials said landings in the Middle East may require sending more strike aircraft for landing or ensuring that an aircraft vessel with its strike wing is operating in the Persian Gulf region.
Kelly A., a former Republican senator from New Hampshire and another leader of the Congress-ruled Afghanistan Commission. Ayotte expressed the sentiment of not only the panel members but also many administration officials.
“It’s not whether we leave,” he said, “but it’s how we leave.”