U.S. International relations and foreign policy — Afghanistan

Written by  //  September 28, 2021  //  Geopolitics, U.S.  //  Comments Off on U.S. International relations and foreign policy — Afghanistan

Pentagon leaders: Kabul withdrawal was a ‘strategic failure’
“We helped build a state … but we could not forge a nation,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said of the two-decade war effort.
(Politico) Gen. Mark Milley, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, described the end of America’s two-decade war in Afghanistan as a “strategic failure” on Tuesday, as the Pentagon’s most senior leadership testified before Congress about the U.S. military’s chaotic withdrawal from the war-torn country last month.
The Joint Chiefs chair became more blunt as the hearing progressed, saying on at least two occasions that the end of the war in Afghanistan had been a “strategic failure,” despite the fact that the noncombatant evacuation that ended in late August was a “logistical success.”
“There’s been four presidents, 20 commanders on the ground, seven or eight chairmen of the Joint Chiefs, dozens of secretaries of Defense, et cetera” throughout the U.S. war in Afghanistan, Milley said. “And outcomes like this are not determined in the last five days, the last 20 days or the last year, for that matter.”
“Outcomes in a war like this,” he continued, “an outcome that is a strategic failure — the enemy is in charge in Kabul, there’s no way else to describe that — that outcome is a cumulative effect of 20 years, not 20 days. And there are a huge amount of strategic, operational and tactical lessons that need to be learned from this.”

13 September
Politico Nightly comments:
Plenty of Afghanistan decisions the administration made in recent months merit more scrutiny, from the choice to shutter Bagram Air Base to the assumption that the heavily U.S.-funded Afghan army could hold off the Taliban for longer than it did. What lawmakers and the public don’t know yet is the backstory: whether political considerations or overt failures of judgment came into play as those calls were made.
Despite the bipartisan criticism of the Biden administration’s withdrawal, there are reasons to doubt that lawmakers can pull back the curtain without descending into the capital’s usual bitter polarization. Looking back a few weeks, House Republicans lined up to call for the president’s resignation in the first days of the Afghanistan pullout, an easy if frivolous play to the base that peaked when some members called for the vice president and speaker to step down, too, given the line of succession.

10 September
The evacuation of Afghan refugees is over. Now what?
The whole world watched the flights taking off at Kabul Airport, and the world is watching now to see how Afghans are received. We need to get this right. The Biden administration and Congress need to act and act quickly to provide medical coverage and financial assistance to the arriving Afghans and allow them to adjust to permanent residence status.
Elizabeth Ferris
(Brookings) The problem now is that most Afghans are not arriving as refugees, but under humanitarian parole. This enabled them to be moved quickly—a speed not afforded to traditional refugees. Going through the regular refugee resettlement process takes around two years and normally is not carried out in the U.S. So, it’s a good thing that humanitarian parole was used; it was intended to be used in precisely these kinds of emergencies. We don’t yet know much about the Afghans who have arrived—whether they have families in the U.S. that can take them in or whether they have resources although, it’s unlikely that most of the refugees arrived with sufficient cash to furnish an apartment, pay the security deposit on utilities, or acquire a phone. The government has been able to mobilize some emergency funds to provide small grants to refugees and secure 30 days’ access to Medicaid. But what happens when they don’t have medical insurance and the small grant runs out? Moreover, humanitarian parole is temporary—for two years—during which time the Afghans will need to adjust their status; some may be able to legalize their status through family reunification or other immigration processes. But most will need to apply for asylum—a system that presently has a backlog of 1.4 million cases.

4 September
Inside the Afghan Evacuation: Rogue Flights, Crowded Tents, Hope and Chaos
President Biden has insisted that the evacuation of Kabul was done as efficiently as possible. But key documents obtained by The New York Times suggest otherwise.
(NYT) The conditions at Doha were chronicled each morning after Kabul fell in a daily situation report emailed broadly to State Department and military officials on behalf of Brig. Gen. Gerald A. Donohue, the commander of the air base; Greta C. Holtz, a veteran ambassador who oversaw evacuation efforts in the city; and John Desrocher, the top diplomat in Qatar.
… unclassified briefing documents titled “2021 Afghanistan Repatriation Mission” reveal that in some cases, spotty information is being collected: Flight manifests have been at times incomplete or missing, visa or citizenship status is unknown, and there is a lack of basic demographic data.
After a university falls in Afghanistan, a D.C. organization scrambles to keep students safe and still learning
the [American University of Afghanistan] has been able to get about 150 students out of Afghanistan in recent weeks. But thousands of students, staff members and people connected to the U.S.-supported university remain in the country

C Uday Bhaskar: Post Afghanistan exit, US must confront the bitter truths of its global ‘war on terror’
(SCMP) …In the aftermath of 9/11, the US set up a commission to review the enormity of the al-Qaeda attack, fix domestic accountability and set in place institutional reforms so that such an exigency did not occur again.
After the Kabul exit, there is a case for Biden to institute a similar investigation about the global “war on terror” and the reasons why US credibility is dented and diminished among both allies and adversaries.
Part of the reason for this debacle is that the US has chosen to create its own strategic bubble since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. A Faustian bargain was struck by the White House on Ronald Reagan’s watch, to foster and support the Afghan mujahideen (Kalashnikov in one hand and the Koran in the other) against the USSR. In this furtive plan, Pakistan was accorded a pivotal role.
In the past four decades, Pakistan has honed the strategy of “hunting with the US hound and running with the jihadi hare” and, in the process, has obtained considerable US fiscal and military aid. Projecting itself as a frontline state in the global “war on terror”, the Pakistani military has refined its ability to receive US aid and yet covertly support terrorist groups that have attacked US interests in Afghanistan.
This dark secret, that the deep state in Pakistan could not be exposed or penalised, was known to the professionals in US foreign policy, but a make-believe simulacrum was created so as not to affect what was believed to be larger US strategic interests.

2 September
I helped design the SIV program. It needs an urgent update if we want to help Afghan refugees.
Thomas Warrick was a senior official in the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security from 1997-2019. He is now a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and director of the Future of DHS Project.
(WaPo) …the SIV program never achieved its potential. Repeated program reviews found that SIV applications — along with refugee and asylum claims — faced thorough security vetting that was chronically starved for people and basic technology.
Screening and vetting SIV, refugee and asylum applicants is a quintessential “back office” function. The work involves checking computer databases and talking quietly to applicants’ references, who are almost always former U.S. military and civilian officials. Some applicants have totally clean records and are easy to approve. At the same time, a few can be rejected immediately because they were fired for spying for the Taliban (for example).
Yet many applications raise questions that can be answered by unglamorous but effective basic police and security work, such as reviewing government records and running down leads.

1 September
A university falls, taking down a symbol of US soft power, Afghan cultural dignity
Inaugurated in 2006 by then US first lady, Laura Bush, AUAF was one of the most visible symbols of American soft power in Afghanistan.
(France 24) When the Taliban swept into Kabul last month, they immediately took over the abandoned American University of Afghanistan (AUAF), the country’s most prestigious private university. Most of the endangered students are now stuck in Afghanistan as its faculty attempt to get them out while mourning an intellectual and cultural loss.
Funded by US aid and with a mandate to educate Afghanistan’s next generation of professionals and leaders, AUAF was a symbolic target in an age when jihadists from Afghanistan to Nigeria are determined to deny populaces access to knowledge.
Today, the AUAF is no more. Even on the Internet, the university has disappeared without a trace after AUAF officials deleted the site, burning servers and documents as a security precaution while the Taliban swept into Kabul.
The university’s non-Afghan faculty members from several nations have since returned home and are dispersed across the world.
Most of the students though have been left behind in Afghanistan – but not from a lack of trying, by the university’s committed staff and alumni, to get them evacuated.

30 August
U.S. completes withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan after 20-year war
(Reuters) – The United States completed the withdrawal of its forces from Afghanistan on Monday, ending 20 years of war that culminated in the militant Taliban’s return to power.
Forced into a hasty and humiliating exit, Washington and its NATO allies carried out a massive but chaotic airlift over the past two weeks, but still left behind tens of thousands of Afghans who helped Western countries and might have qualified for evacuation.
Exclusive: Before Afghan collapse, Biden pressed Ghani to ‘change perception’
By Aram Roston and Nandita Bose
In the last call between U.S. President Joe Biden and his Afghanistan counterpart before the Taliban seized control of the country [The men spoke for roughly 14 minutes on July 23], the leaders discussed military aid, political strategy and messaging tactics, but neither Biden nor Ashraf Ghani appeared aware of or prepared for the immediate danger of the entire country falling to insurgents, a transcript reviewed by Reuters shows.
“We are facing a full-scale invasion, composed of Taliban, full Pakistani planning and logistical support, and at least 10-15,000 international terrorists, predominantly Pakistanis thrown into this,” Ghani said. Afghan government officials, and U.S. experts, have consistently pointed to Pakistani support for the Taliban as key to the group’s resurgence.
FAA says Kabul airport now uncontrolled, U.S. carriers barred from flights
(Reuters) – Kabul airport is without air traffic control services now that the U.S. military has withdrawn from Afghanistan, and U.S. civil aircraft are barred from operating over the country unless given prior authorization, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said on Monday.
The FAA said in a statement that “due to both the lack of air traffic services and a functional civil aviation authority in Afghanistan, as well as ongoing security concerns, U.S. civil operators, pilots, and U.S.-registered civil aircraft are prohibited from operating at any altitude over much of Afghanistan.”

29 August
American University of Afghanistan students and relatives trying to flee were sent home.
By Farnaz Fassihi
Hundreds of students, their relatives and staff of the American University of Afghanistan gathered at a safe house on Sunday and boarded buses in what was supposed to be a final attempt at evacuation on U.S. military flights, the students said.
But after seven hours of waiting for clearance to enter the airport gates and driving around the city, the group met a dead end: Evacuations were permanently called off. The airport gates remained a security threat, and civilian evacuations were ending Monday.
“I regret to inform you that the high command at HKIA in the airport has announced there will be no more rescue flights,” said an email sent to students from the university administration on Sunday afternoon, which was shared with The New York Times.

26 August
Kabul attacks put bitter adversary Islamic State back into U.S. sights
(Reuters) – U.S. military commanders vowed to hunt down the leaders of Islamic State after Thursday’s suicide bomb attack on Kabul airport, pledging to exact revenge on the long-time U.S. adversary for the deaths of dozens of Afghans and U.S. troops.
“We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay,” U.S. President Joe Biden said in emotional remarks at the White House, promising that group’s actions would not stop a mass evacuation airlift.
Islamic State Khorasan (ISIS-K), an affiliate of militants who previously battled U.S. forces in Syria and Iraq, said it had carried out the attack, which killed dozens of people – including Afghans who were trying to leave the country and at least a dozen U.S. service members.
12 U.S. Troops Killed in Attack Outside Kabul Airport
Two large explosions ripped through crowds outside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on Thursday, killing 11 U.S. marines, one Navy medic and dozens of Afghans, according to a Pentagon spokesperson. Fifteen more service members have been injured, and the Wall Street Journal reports that at least 60 Afghans are dead. Officials said that at least one of the blasts appeared to be the work of a suicide bomber. In an address on Thursday, Biden stated that ISIS-K — the Afghanistan branch of Islamic State — was responsible for the attack. The group has also claimed responsibility.

24-25 August
The Media Manufactured Biden’s Political ‘Fiasco’ in Afghanistan “Straight news” has chosen sanctimony over circumspection.
(New York) America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan has yet to cost our nation a single casualty. Evacuations of U.S. citizens and allies from Kabul’s airport are proceeding at a faster pace than the White House had promised, or than its critics had deemed possible. Afghanistan’s decades-long civil war has reached a lull, if not an end. On the streets of Kabul, “order and quiet” have replaced “rising crime and violence.” Meanwhile, the Taliban is negotiating with former Afghan president Hamid Karzai over the establishment of “an inclusive government acceptable to all Afghans.”
In other words, Joe Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan has been a “disastrous” and “humiliating” “fiasco,” in the words of the mainstream media’s ostensibly objective foreign-policy journalists.
This may be an accurate description of what recent events in Kabul have meant for the president, politically. The latest polls have shown sharp drops in Biden’s approval rating, driven in part by widespread opposition to “the way” his administration handled its (otherwise popular) exit from Afghanistan. Yet this political fiasco is not a development that the media covered so much as one that it created.

What happens after Biden’s evacuation force leaves Afghanistan?
By Idrees Ali and David Brunnstrom
(Reuters) – President Joe Biden on Tuesday stuck by his plan to remove the nearly 6,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of August, contingent on whether the Taliban cooperates to allow the evacuation of more Americans and their Afghan allies. read more
Since Aug. 14, more than 70,000 people, including American citizens, NATO personnel and Afghans at risk, have been evacuated from Kabul, Biden said on Tuesday. Biden has said the United States will evacuate any U.S. citizen who wants to leave and officials have said they will evacuate as many at-risk Afghans as possible.
The Association of Wartime Allies, a refugee resettlement group, estimates 250,000 Afghans, including interpreters and drivers and other workers who helped the U.S. effort, need to be evacuated, but only 62,000 have left since July.
The State Department says the aim is to help at-risk Afghans leave even after the troop withdrawal and that Washington will put pressure on the Taliban to ensure they are able to do so.
One of the biggest questions the Biden administration and like-minded governments face is whether to recognize the government the Taliban establishes.
This would have important consequences, including as to whether the Taliban will have access to the foreign aid relied upon by previous Afghan governments.
A 2020 agreement signed by the former Trump administration explicitly states that the Taliban “is not recognized by the United States as a state,” but there are already signs Washington will have to talk to the Islamist militant group on some issues, such as counter-terrorism.
The United States, its allies and the United Nations will have to decide how to deal with a looming humanitarian disaster.

This Is What the Afghan Evacuation Looks Like on the Inside
By Arash Azizzada, a community organizer based in Los Angeles who has been coordinating efforts to evacuate Afghans from Kabul.
(NYT) Together with a coalition of Afghan American organizations, many community members and I have been trying our hardest to evacuate our friends and family.
It’s fiendishly difficult. A network of veterans, private sector workers, human rights activists and other volunteers, we’re coordinating on different platforms and languages, often all at once. We’re figuring out what Taliban checkpoints to avoid and what gate at the airport is the most accessible, if any are. We’re raising money, millions of dollars overnight, to charter planes. We’re endlessly compiling spreadsheets with information about Afghans who are under threat from the Taliban.
We’re doing this because the American government isn’t. United States officials claim they’re presiding over an orderly exit, but the chaos on the ground suggests otherwise. Those evacuated in the past 10 days — approximately 58,700 people, according to American officials — appear to be mostly American citizens and the situation, fluid and frenzied, is far from under control.

The U.S. dare not betray the students at the American University of Afghanistan
Opinion by Charles Lane
(WaPo) As news of Biden’s decision broke on Tuesday, hundreds of young women with a special U.S. affiliation were in hiding across Kabul, waiting for news regarding when, or if, their chance at evacuation will come. They are students at the American University of Afghanistan — though by now they have destroyed documents that identify them as such for fear of discovery by the Taliban. Among all those people that U.S. officials label “vulnerable Afghans,” these AUAF women are some of the most endangered, according to sources familiar with their current situation.
Then-first lady Laura Bush presided over the opening of AUAF in 2006. Developed with $100 million in U.S. aid, it grew into Afghanistan’s only independent, private, not for profit, nonsectarian, coeducational institution of higher education. It epitomized the U.S. effort to equip future Afghan leaders, men and women, with skills beneficial to their country’s development.

20-23 August
Escape From Afghanistan
Even those with a visa must endure harrowing conditions on their way to freedom.
By George Packer
(The Atlantic) The Americans involved can take a moment to cry tears of frustration or pity or relief; I haven’t heard any Afghans cry. Escaping to safety takes every ounce of will. It takes wit and connections and the resourcefulness to use them. Most of all, it takes luck.
With the qualities of character that enabled them to escape from hell, Khan and his family will make—and Hakim and his family would make—the most excellent Americans. We’re at least as lucky to have them as they are to have us. What do we owe them?
Acknowledgment of what they’ve endured and lost, mainly—as both Khan and Hakim insisted—because of the greed and weakness of their own leaders, but also because of American arrogance and fickleness. But first, ceaseless rescue for others in their position, until the last Afghans able to save themselves are out.
A long and disheartening dissection
Miscue After Miscue, U.S. Exit Plan Unravels Updated 22 August
President Biden promised an orderly withdrawal. That pledge, compounded by missed signals and miscalculations, proved impossible.
By Michael D. Shear, David E. Sanger, Helene Cooper, Eric Schmitt, Julian E. Barnes and Lara Jakes
(NYT) The nation’s top national security officials assembled at the Pentagon early on April 24 for a secret meeting to plan the final withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan. It was two weeks after President Biden had announced the exit over the objection of his generals, but now they were carrying out his orders.
…  Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, met with top White House and intelligence officials. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken joined by video conference. After four hours, two things were clear.
First, Pentagon officials said they could pull out the remaining 3,500 American troops, almost all deployed at Bagram Air Base, by July 4 — two months earlier than the Sept. 11 deadline Mr. Biden had set. The plan would mean closing the airfield that was the American military hub in Afghanistan, but Defense Department officials did not want a dwindling, vulnerable force and the risks of service members dying in a war declared lost.
Second, State Department officials said they would keep the American Embassy open, with more than 1,400 remaining Americans protected by 650 Marines and soldiers. An intelligence assessment presented at the meeting estimated that Afghan forces could hold off the Taliban for one to two years. There was brief talk of an emergency evacuation plan — helicopters would ferry Americans to the civilian airport in Kabul, the capital — but no one raised, let alone imagined, what the United States would do if the Taliban gained control of access to that airport, the only safe way in and out of the country once Bagram closed.
Biden vows to bring Americans home, defends Afghanistan exit amid continuing chaos
(WaPo) President Biden promised Friday to bring all Americans home from Afghanistan and portrayed the evacuation effort as one that has made significant progress, despite clear evidence on the ground that the situation was continuing to deteriorate as flights were temporarily delayed and a chaotic scene played out at the gates to the Kabul airport.
(Update 22 August) The Pentagon Is Calling On 6 U.S. Airlines To Help With The Afghan Evacuation Effort
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the civilian aircraft will not fly into Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. Instead, they will be used for “the onward movement of passengers from temporary safe havens and interim staging bases” outside of Afghanistan.
During remarks in the East Room of the White House, Biden continued to defend his decision — without acknowledging any errors in the execution of the withdrawal he ordered as he urged Americans to save any criticism for later.
“There will be plenty of time to criticize and second-guess when this operation is over,” Biden said. “But now — now — I’m focused on getting this job done.”
The president vowed in his strongest terms yet that no American would be left behind, and he made the same commitment to Afghans who have aided the U.S. effort over the last two decades.

19 August
As US military sticks to airport, British and French forces are rescuing their citizens in Kabul: reports
(Military Times) News of these operations by NATO partners in Afghanistan leaves some Americans asking for Washington to follow suit. Matt Zeller, who served in Afghanistan as an Army intelligence officer, and is now a member of the Association of Wartime Allies, a group dedicated to relocating Afghans who helped the U.S., expressed his frustration on Facebook.

Trump’s Deal With the Taliban Draws Fire From His Former Allies
The former president and his secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, are attacking President Biden over Afghanistan even as their own policy faces harsh criticism.

17 August
For America, and Afghanistan, the Post-9/11 Era Ends Painfully
Roger Cohen
The desperate scenes at the Kabul airport will now give Afghanistan a place in America’s national memory as another failed attempt to reshape a far-off land.
A colossal bipartisan investment of American force, treasure and diplomacy to defeat a hostile ideology bent on the creation of an Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has failed. Over four presidencies, two Republican and two Democratic, more than 2,400 Americans gave their lives, and more than $1 trillion dollars was spent, for shifting Afghan goals, many of which proved unattainable.
The curtain came down on the post-9/11 era, with the Taliban retaking control of the country that served as the base for the attack on America, a full-circle debacle for the United States that will engrave Afghanistan painfully in the national memory.
Mistakes and illusions and a particular American naïveté, or hubris, about remaking the world in its image led to the swift Taliban takeover almost two decades after its defeat, but a more fundamental factor also played a part. With China flexing its muscles, the nation’s priorities shifted. The relative power of the United States is not what it was 20 years ago.
The country’s capacity and inclination to commit resources to faraway struggles ebbed. Absent the Cold War, Americans have little appetite for the kind of open-ended military commitment that cemented democracies in Germany, Japan, South Korea and elsewhere.
… “America is back,” has been the refrain. But the question will now be raised: To do what? A planned summit in December conceived to reinforce democracies looks far less credible now that Afghan schools may be closed to girls again and Afghans who believed in freedom are desperate to flee.

16 August
Thomas Friedman: Biden Could Still Be Proved Right in Afghanistan
For years, U.S. officials used a shorthand phrase to describe America’s mission in Afghanistan. It always bothered me: We are there to train the Afghan Army to fight for their own government.
Thinking you need to train Afghans how to fight is like thinking you need to train Pacific Islanders how to fish. Afghan men know how to fight. They’ve been fighting one another, the British, the Soviets or the Americans for a long, long time.
It was never about the way our Afghan allies fought. It was always about their will to fight for the corrupt pro-American, pro-Western governments we helped stand up in Kabul.
Kate Andrews: Biden risks undermining America’s moral authority
(The Spectator) [Biden] witnessed Obama’s mistakes in real-time, up close and on the ground in the White House. He cannot feign ignorance or pretend he doesn’t know what is about to happen to America’s reputation on the world stage – or to the Afghan people left behind. When brutal regimes get a taste of victory, they are emboldened to act faster and more viciously. The Taliban has said it’s not the same as the leaders who inflicted totalitarian control in the 1990s – but don’t be surprised if Afghan doctors, teachers and soldiers become slaves, refugees and body counts overnight.
Both Donald Trump and Joe Biden stood on a platform to wind down a failed war and bring American soldiers home. It was Trump, let’s not forget, who cut the deal with the Taliban. But Biden made the final move. The execution of withdrawal has been disastrous, deadly. We are about to discover who Joe Biden, as President, really is. We know he’s willing to take risks at home, but he has given no indication yet that he has the guts to do what’s risky and necessary abroad, and change tactics. No indication that he is any less insular than Trump when it comes to discharging America’s responsibility in the world.
If Biden gets this wrong, the world will become a more dangerous place.
Biden stands behind Afghan withdrawal, despite ‘hard and messy’ final days.
By Michael D. Shear and David E. Sanger
(NYT) President Biden offered a defiant defense on Monday of his decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, blaming the swift collapse of the Afghan government and chaotic scenes at the Kabul airport on the refusal of the country’s military to stand and fight in the face of the Taliban advance.
Speaking to the American people from the East Room after returning briefly to the White House from Camp David, Mr. Biden said he had no regrets about his decision to end the longest war in United States history. But he lamented that two decades of support failed to turn the Afghan military into a force capable of securing its own country.
“We gave them every tool they could need. We paid their salaries. Provided for the maintenance of their airplanes,” Mr. Biden said. “We gave them every chance to determine their own future. What we could not provide was the will to fight for that future.”
Read the Full Transcript of President Biden’s Remarks on Afghanistan
Mr. Biden spoke from the White House on Monday afternoon after the collapse of the Afghan government to the Taliban.

14 August
Biden restates commitment to Afghan drawdown amid Taliban offensive
The president orders the deployment of 5,000 troops to assist drawdown efforts as U.S. Embassy staff are rushed to Kabul airport.
(Politico) Biden authorized the deployment of some 5,000 U.S. troops to ensure “an orderly and safe” drawdown of U.S. and allied personnel in Afghanistan, which came after reports of the evacuation of U.S. Embassy staff in Kabul to the international airport as the Taliban rapidly close in on the capital.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has been directed to support President Ashraf Ghani and other Afghan leaders amid turmoil in the region, Biden said. Ambassador Tracey Jacobson was charged with overseeing the relocation of Afghan special immigrant visa applicants and other Afghan allies.
Bloomberg Politics: Biden faces growing criticism among human rights groups and his own Democrats, as the Taliban take advantage of the U.S. troop pullout to make rapid territorial advances in Afghanistan. The militant group has sent thousands of desperate people fleeing as it pushes toward the capital, Kabul, with reports it is already imposing curbs on women and girls.

12 August
Biden Could Have Stopped the Taliban. He Chose Not To.
Frederick W. Kagan, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
(NYT guest essay) … there was still a way to pull out American troops while giving our Afghan partners a better chance to hold the gains we made with them over the last two decades.
Mr. Biden chose otherwise. The way he announced the drawdown and eventual departure of American troops — at the start of the fighting season, on a rapid timeline and sans adequate coordination with the Afghan government — has in part gotten us into the current situation.
Mr. Biden believes that further expending U.S. resources in Afghanistan is “a recipe for being there indefinitely.” He rightly notes that President Trump had left him few good options by making a terrible deal with the Taliban. That’s a fine argument, but it explains neither the hastiness nor the consequences we are now observing: the Taliban overrunning swaths of the country, closing in on Kabul, pushing the Afghan security forces and government to the brink of collapse and prompting the Pentagon to prepare for a possible evacuation of the U.S. embassy.

US keeping distance as Afghan forces face Taliban rout
(AP) — Afghan government forces are collapsing even faster than U.S. military leaders thought possible just a few months ago when President Joe Biden ordered a full withdrawal. But there’s little appetite at the White House, the Pentagon or among the American public for trying to stop the rout and it probably is too late to do so.
Biden has made clear he has no intention of reversing the decision he made last spring, even as the outcome seems to point toward a Taliban takeover. With most U.S. troops now gone and the Taliban accelerating their battlefield gains, American military leaders are not pressing him to change his mind. They know that the only significant option would be for the president to restart the war he already decided to end.

14 April
Susan B. Glasser: Biden Finally Got to Say No to the Generals
(The New Yorker) In truth, the Afghan war will go on, just without the United States participating in it. The annual Global Threats Report, issued by the U.S. intelligence community this week, was both grim and clear on this point.

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