Many military and intelligence experts predicted that the withdrawal from Afghanistan would not be an easy operation. With chaotic evacuations and the devastating twin bomb attacks of last Thursday, they proved right.
Through the withdrawal Washington not only empowered the Taliban politically but also left behind millions of dollars’ worth of military equipment, arms, and ammunition leading to questions. Was this only in exchange for a safe evacuation or more? The “Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan between the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban and the United States of America” was signed in Doha on February 29, 2020. What was negotiated and agreed on since then? Is there a broader agreement? On July 8, President Biden was asked if he trusted the Taliban. This was his response: “It’s a silly question. Do I trust the Taliban? No…” Has this changed? Are the Taliban no longer an enemy but a partner? If so, has this been discussed with NATO partners? Have they agreed?
On February 19, 2021, in his first address to the global audience at the 2021 Virtual Munich Security Conference President Biden said, “I speak today as President of the United States at the very start of my administration, and I’m sending a clear message to the world: America is back. The transatlantic alliance is back. And we are not looking backward; we are looking forward, together.” Since then, the slogan, “America is back” coined Mr. Biden’s desire to reassert global leadership.
Most of world’s conflicts, some armed others luckily not, are among neighbors. They are about territory, borders, economic and political interests, power, threat perceptions. Some have an ideological dimension. If neighbors in conflict are located in unstable strategic regions, involvement of other neighbors is likely; involvement of major powers is a certainty. Over time some turn into frozen conflicts. All conflicts, particularly armed ones come at a price. They result in loss of life, displacement of peoples, undermine economic and political development. Their impact transcends borders.
The principal challenge in Afghanistan has always been Afghan groups forging a united front not only to fight tribalism, warlordism and corruption but also to achieve better governance. The country has remained divided on ethnic, sectarian, and regional lines. While the Afghans have demonstrated an exceptional capacity for resistance to foreign interference, they have failed time and again to show the ability to agree on common denominators. Even the formation of consecutive Kabul governments proved a challenge.
In my last post, dated August 2, I said that the increasing number of Afghans crossing into Turkey from Iran leads one to question whether the Kabul subcontract is just about the airport or more.
Later in the day, Secretary Blinken in remarks to the press[i], announced the “US Refugee Admissions Program Priority 2 Designation for Afghan Nationals”[ii], a new resettlement opportunity for Afghans who assisted the US, but do dot qualify for Special Immigrant Visas (SIV).