On September 15, 2021, President Biden, Prime Ministers Morrison, and Johnson announced the creation of AUKUS. On September 24, President Biden, Prime Ministers Morrison, Modi, and Suga convened in Washington in person as “the Quad” for the first time. Before the meeting President Biden and Prime Minister Modi delivered remarks to the media.[i] These remarks, choreographed by the former, almost matched the family warmth displayed during Trump-Netanyahu meetings at the White House. Thus, the concluding remarks of PM Modi were, “And I am quite — I’m absolutely convinced that under your leadership, whatever we do, it will be extremely relevant for the entire world. Once again, Mr. President, let me thank you profusely for this very warm welcome.”
In a recent post I said, “Moscow and Peking were no doubt delighted to see the US get bogged down in Afghanistan for two decades, just as Washington was delighted to watch USSR’s invasion of Afghanistan end up in failure. But after two disastrous experiences, history should not be allowed to repeat itself. Washington should not start enjoying what might be the negative repercussions of the Taliban victory for its two strategic competitors…
“The terrorist threat has taken deep root in the Middle East with its long-drawn-out conflicts. To stop its spreading elsewhere, major powers have no other option than working together. Presidents Biden and Xi Jinping agreeing that competition should not veer into conflict is a positive sign.” [i]Obviously, my assessment of the readout of their call was an overstatement.
The world is waiting to see whether the Taliban has changed or not, if so to what extent. Countries involved in Afghan affairs know that they would not witness fundamental change but hope for a move towards minimum moderation. The question is for how long they would wait and see.
Last week, in remarks to the High-level Ministerial Meeting on the Humanitarian Situation in Afghanistan, UN Secretary General Guterres said:
“Even before the dramatic events of the last weeks, Afghans were experiencing one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world.”
A few days after 9/11 President George W. Bush, in impromptu remarks said, “this crusade, this war on terrorism, is going to take a while. His use of the word “crusade” raised concerns in Europe among those who saw this as walking into civilizational clash trap set by al-Qaeda. Thus, when he addressed a joint session of the Congress on September 20, 2001, the President struck a different tone. He said,
“We’ve seen the unfurling of flags, the lighting of candles, the giving of blood, the saying of prayers in English, Hebrew and Arabic…
“I also want to speak tonight directly to Muslims throughout the world. We respect your faith…
In an earlier post I said, “Unfortunately for Mr. Biden, the chaos and shock triggered by the evacuations overshadowed the rational of his decision to withdraw“, on August 31, in “Remarks on the End of the War in Afghanistan”, the President said that the Kabul evacuations were a major success. Heurged the Americans to focus on the underlying logic of ending America’s longest war and turn the page.[i] According to a Pew Research Center poll published last week 54% of Americans agree that the withdrawal was the right choice; 69% think America had failed to achieve its goals in Afghanistan.[ii] And according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll Americans overwhelmingly support President Biden’s decision to end the war in Afghanistan, but by a 2-to-1 margin they disapprove his handling of the withdrawal. As the dust of the Kabul operation settles, the percentage of those agreeing with the withdrawal would go up.