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.
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.
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).
Turkey’s “offer” to remain at the Kabul airport beyond US and other nations’ withdrawal from Afghanistan has become another controversial foreign policy topic. Like the rest of our foreign and security policy issues, this too has immediately turned into another “riddle, wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”, to use Winston Churchill’s words referring to Soviet policies in 1939. Because Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (JDP) government keeps the public in the dark about its “intricate” foreign policy schemes.
On February 19, President Biden addressed the global community for the first time. At 2021 Virtual Munich Security Conference he defined the partnership between Europe and the US as the cornerstone of all that the West hopes to accomplish in the 21st century, just as it did in the 20th century. He expressed his strong belief that democracy will and must prevail.