Withdrawal of American troops | The Taliban’s advance was predictable, experts say

(Washington) Given the meteoric advance of the Taliban, Joe Biden does not deviate: The President of the United States is determined to complete the withdrawal from Afghanistan, but also does not seem to have any means of influencing the fate of the country.

Posted on Aug 9, 2021 at 2:45 pm

Francesco FONTEMAGGI and Shaun TANDON Agence France-Presse

“The decision to withdraw was made with the full awareness that what we are currently witnessing could happen,” Laurel Miller, US envoy for Afghanistan until 2017, told AFP.

If Michael Kugelman, researcher at the Wilson Center think tank, thinks he is “surprising” and even “extremely worrying” at how fast the territorial gains are being made by the insurgents who have already captured six of the 34 provincial capitals, he shares this observation: “We all knew that the Taliban would step up their offensive when Biden announced his departure.

The withdrawal of the international armed forces was decided by the former US President Donald Trump. His successor is postponing the deadline by a few months, but US and foreign forces will have left the country by the end of the month.

For Joe Biden, the primary goal of the intervention triggered by the September 11, 2001 attacks, namely the marginalization of the jihadist organization Al-Qaeda, has long been achieved.

“Almost 20 years of experience have shown us that ‘just one more year’ of struggle in Afghanistan is not a solution, but the recipe to stay there forever,” said the Democrat, who has been pleading for the longest war in the US since last month to end its story.

The American “bet”

In the face of the Taliban’s advance, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has made it clear in recent weeks that the line will not change: Washington will maintain its “support” for the government in Kabul, particularly with regard to military training but for the rest, it is up to the Afghans to choose their fate.

The main question now is whether the US air strikes, which have intensified in recent days, will continue after August 31st. At this point the answer is no, as the Biden administration had warned against only intervening in the event of a terrorist threat from al-Qaeda or the jihadist group Islamic State.

However, emphasizes Elie Tenenbaum, researcher at the French Institute for International Relations, the Biden government has made a “bet” that a return of the Taliban will not work[était] not a vital threat to the security of the United States ”.

Moreover, on the diplomatic front, Americans are still pretending to resume now stalled diplomatic talks by threatening to turn Afghanistan into a “pariah state” if the Taliban take over by force and their ultras restore -strict version of Islamic law that was in effect when they ruled the country between 1996 and 2001.

The US “persistently uses this leverage because it has no other,” said Laurel Miller, now Asia director of the conflict prevention organization International Crisis Group.

“Political Costs”

“Of course, the Taliban would prefer the legitimacy and financial support of the international community. But their priority is seizure of power, and if they have to choose between legitimacy and power, they will choose power, ”she warns.

The most optimistic scenario for the government in Kabul – probably too optimistic – today is to freeze the situation on the ground and then negotiate a political solution.

Michael Kugelman also doubts that the US can reverse the trend in favor of the Taliban after almost leaving Afghanistan.

“I fear that the Taliban are just too strong and the Afghan army too besieged for the Americans to change the situation,” he blurted out.

Especially since American public opinion is against this war or is not interested in it. In the political class, too, the insurgent offensive did not really weigh: the opponents of the withdrawal are the same as when it was announced, i.e. a few neoconservatives and part of the military.

“Even if the worst-case scenario occurs that the Taliban threaten to take over all of Afghanistan, that doesn’t change the government’s calculations,” because “the political costs of returning troops would be much higher than those of withdrawing,” explains Michael Kugelman .

And what a shame for the speech by the duo Biden-Blinken, who promised to put democracy and human rights at the center of their foreign policy.

For a former American diplomat, “it shows that this speech only applies to certain countries, not everywhere”.

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