THERE are so many people now lining up to heap the Afghan withdrawal fiasco on Joe Biden, including the former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, who called the fiasco “imbecilic” (but conveniently forgot his own “imbecilic” decision to support the invasion of Iraq – a decision based on lies).
But what all these people now baying for blood forgot (in their self-induced amnesia or just to score a cheap political point), was that Joe Biden was just a fall-guy.
The Afghan withdrawal fiasco was a culmination of self-inflicted wounds, of ill-thought of plans and above all of misguided belief in American military might.
When Afghanistan was invaded in October 2001 as a result of the terrorist attack of 9/11, which happened a month earlier, it was a focused venture and well supported by freedom-loving people all over the world.
It did make progress in that the Taliban and their terrorist associates, Al-Qaeda, were vanquished.
But then the rot set in. Instead of focusing on Afghanistan and building an encompassing government with effective administrative mechanisms, the US got carried away on her military successes in Afghanistan and under the Bush administration, went into Iraq for a regime change with the bogus reason of searching for “a non-existent” weapons of mass destruction, thus paying less attention to Afghanistan.
This costly mistake resulted in:
- Emboldening the Taliban to regroup and start launching attacks (with the able support of Pakistan)
- The US losing credibility and the support she had in prosecuting the war in Afghanistan
As if the blunder in invading Iraq was not enough, the US went into Libya, again for a regime change; then she got caught up in a proxy war in Syria, again aimed at a regime change, which did not succeed.
With all these meaningless military adventurism, the US lost focus and many terrorist organisations started springing up, notably the Islamic State aka ISIS, corruption, which “almost always goes hand in hand with badly executed democracy”, set in in Afghanistan, and the Taliban became ever more emboldened to launch attacks.
Obama initiated the US withdrawal from Afghanistan because the un-winnable war was costing the US dear in both men and money.
Before Obama left office the US troop presence had gone down from ca. 25000 to 5000. Then Trump came into office and entered into a very poorly thought of withdrawal strategy, the effect of which we are now witnessing.
He had a lopsided deal with the Taliban under which:
- 5000 Taliban fighters were released in exchange for 1000 Afghan soldiers!
- No US or allied military would be attacked by the Taliban, but, a very big BUT, Afghan soldiers were fair games!
- The Afghan government was excluded from the discussion leading up to the deal. In effect, the Afghans were sacrificed for American interests.
- US allies were also excluded from the discussion
Trump went on record to assert that he “TRUSTED the Taliban to keep their words…., because the Taliban, too, are tired of war”! This statement came at a time it was obvious even to a blind person that the Taliban were reneging (or were going to renege) on the terms of the deal.
When Joe Biden came into office, the US troop presence in Afghanistan had dwindled to a mere 2500 while the Taliban was increasing in strength and overrunning many regions of Afghanistan.
More importantly the American people had lost interest in Afghanistan and wanted to end haemorrhaging money and men for a lost cause.
The above scenarios still did not exempt Biden from blame. Every fiasco demands a scapegoat. He could have reversed Trump’s deal with the Taliban, but he did not except to extend the withdrawal from May 2021 to 11 September 2021 in order to coincided with the anniversary of the 9/11 attack (but as we all know now, he never got his wishes as the Taliban swept through Afghanistan and are now in control of the country).
Biden stuck to Trump’s deal because the midterm elections were approaching and he needed to focus on domestic issues like creating jobs at home instead of wasting money on military adventurism abroad, which added no value to the US economy (remember that Afghanistan unlike Iraq and Libya had no “developed” oil worth mentioning with which to recoup the US losses!).
Moreover with Russia, China and Iran all vying for attentions, the US and her NATO allies had no option but to abandon Afghanistan in order to fry bigger fishes. But doing so was a mistake that might have played into the hands of the aforementioned trios.
Afghanistan lies smack down in the intersection with Russia, China and Iran! Giving up Afghanistan means that the US and her NATO allies have lost a foothold on the geopolitical map of that part of Asia.
In my mind, all the four presidents, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Donal Trump, and Joe Biden, are guilty in equal measures for the fiasco of Afghanistan. Blaming everything on Joe Biden is not only myopic and disingenuous but crass.