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 July 8, 2021, President Biden delivered remarks on the drawdown of US forces in Afghanistan and took some questions. With the words “Afghanistan” and “failure” now glued to one another, and reports from Kabul reflecting nothing but doom and gloom, his was a tough task. Contradictions were unavoidable.
In an earlier post, in addressing West’s Turkey conundrum I said:
“On the one hand, most Western governments now regard JDP’s Ankara only a “nominal ally” if not an adversary, but they cannot turn their back on a country which enjoys a geo-strategic location surrounded by three seas and joining Asia and Europe, when tensions with Russia are on the rise. Turkey is a unique window into the Middle East. Sadly, it has also acquired a critical role in Europe’s dealing with its refugee problem…
“Thus, sanctioning Turkey has increasingly became a balancing act between targeting the JDP government and not alienating the Turkish people…”
An open-ended US/NATO military engagement in Afghanistan was never an option. The aim was achieving optimal conditions for withdrawal. On April 14, President Biden announced that US troops as well as forces deployed by America’s NATO Allies and operational partners will be out of Afghanistan before the 20th anniversary of 9/11. The plan he said, had long been “in together, out together.” Have optimal conditions for withdrawal been achieved? No. But it is “out together”, regardless.