Biden plays the long game on withdrawal from Afghanistan

The Forever War is over, but the Forever debate may be just beginning. While presiding over the end of a lost 20-year mission in Afghan...


The Forever War is over, but the Forever debate may be just beginning. While presiding over the end of a lost 20-year mission in Afghanistan, President Biden on Tuesday sparked a protracted argument for history over his decision to exit, how he handled it and what that means for America’s future.

In declaring the end of America’s nation-building misadventure halfway around the world, Mr. Biden was playing a long game, on the assumption that he will be remembered by posterity for to have finally brought the country out of a quagmire, not for the way he did it. this. While his approval ratings have fallen to the lowest levels in his short term, most Americans in the polls still support leaving Afghanistan, and the White House assumes they will move on to other issues quickly. like the pandemic and the economy.

“We no longer had a clear goal in an indefinite mission in Afghanistan,” the president said from the East Room of the White House, where so many important speeches on Afghanistan were delivered by four US presidents in the United States. over the past two decades. “After 20 years of war in Afghanistan, I refused to send another generation of American sons and daughters to fight a war that should have ended long ago.

He cited more than 120,000 Americans and Afghan allies evacuated in the two weeks following the Taliban seizure of power in Kabul, boasting that “no nation has ever done anything like this in history. “. And he maintained that after more than 2,400 combat deaths in the United States, it was high time to disentangle itself from a country where the United States has no vital national interest in remaining.

But the images of pandemonium at Kabul airport and the president’s failure to evacuate all Americans as he promised just days ago have raised questions about his leadership that could also prove damaging to long term. They could fit into a larger Republicans indictment portraying Mr. Biden as an unreliable and ineffective commander-in-chief who has humiliated America on the international stage – it doesn’t matter if the pullout is based on a negotiated deal. with the Taliban by President Donald J. Trump.

“President Biden’s improper victory lap was out of touch,” said Nebraska Republican Senator Ben Sasse. wrote on Twitter after the president’s speech. “His cruel indifference to the Americans he abandoned behind enemy lines is shameful. “

Representative Elise Stefanik of New York, member of the House Republican leadership, chided Mr. Biden for refusing to take responsibility for the disorderly withdrawal. “Shouting and blaming the American people is not what was needed in this speech,” she said. “For Joe Biden, the responsibility ends with anyone and everyone except himself.”

Supporters for Mr Biden’s decision backed down, saying he had shown political courage in sticking to the pullout in the face of a powerful backlash.

“There was no perfect time or way to leave Afghanistan”, former rep Justin Amash said, a former Michigan Republican who quit his party during Mr. Trump’s presidency. “President Biden ordered the evacuation of over 100,000 people and brought our troops out. I disagree with the president on a lot of things, but I’m thankful that he succeeded despite all the pressure.

A survey published this week by Reuters and Ipsos found that the vast majority of Americans wanted Mr Biden to keep troops there past the deadline if necessary to ensure all Americans were out. Forty-nine percent said the military should stay “until all U.S. citizens and Afghan allies have been evacuated” and 25 percent said they should stay at least until all American citizens came out. Only 13% said the troops should “evacuate immediately”.

Overall, 38% of Americans approved of Mr. Biden’s handling of the withdrawal. But they don’t just hold him responsible – 20 percent say he deserved “the biggest blame for the current state” of Afghanistan, while 10 percent named former President George W. Bush, who opened the war after the attacks of September 11, 2001., and 9% pointed the finger at Mr. Trump, and others pointed the finger at Afghans, generals or others.

Beyond politics will come the debate on what the Taliban victory means for America’s place in the world. Mr. Biden intends to chart a new course for foreign policy, somewhere between the muscular, ready-to-trigger internationalism that prevailed under Mr. Bush and, at times, President Barack Obama, and the “America First” isolationism. From Mr. Trump.

“The world is changing,” Biden said on Tuesday, citing challenges from China, Russia, cybersecurity and nuclear proliferation. America must lead, he added, but not always with military force. The withdrawal from Afghanistan marks the end of “an era of major military operations to remake other countries.”

Even so, even some European allies have expressed fear that the defeat of the US-led coalition in Afghanistan will embolden terrorist groups and weaken the US position in the world.

Part of Mr. Biden’s political problems in handling the Afghan withdrawal has been to reconcile his own words with the reality on the ground. It was he who promised in April to proceed with the withdrawal “in a responsible, deliberate and safe manner” and added in July that he “was proceeding in a safe and orderly manner”.

But on Tuesday, he suggested it was unrealistic to expect. “Now some are saying we should have started the mass evacuations earlier and, ‘Couldn’t it have been done in a more orderly fashion? ” “, did he declare. “I disagree with respect.”

“The bottom line,” he added, “is that there is no evacuation of the end of a war that you can wage without the kind of complexities, challenges and threats we face. were faced. Nothing.”

Likewise, it was he who in July said that it was “very unlikely” that the Taliban would take control of the country and that there were “no circumstances” for an embarrassing and chaotic exit similar to the helicopters taking off from the embassy in Saigon in 1975..

And he told ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos after the Taliban took Kabul that he would keep US troops in Afghanistan beyond the August 31 withdrawal deadline, if necessary to evacuate any Americans still on. field. “If there are any US citizens left, we will stay until we get them all out,” he said at the time.

With 100 to 200 U.S. citizens remaining in Afghanistan wanting to leave, Mr Biden made no effort on Tuesday to explain why he then did not extend the deadline as he had announced. But he suggested that most of those still there were dual citizens who “decided earlier to stay because of their family roots in Afghanistan,” only to then change their mind.

Instead, he singled out the 5,500 Americans who were successfully evacuated. “At the end of the day: 90% of Americans in Afghanistan who wanted to leave were able to leave,” he said. (The White House corrected it later and said it was 98 percent.) “And for the remaining Americans, there’s no deadline. We remain committed to getting them out if they want to get out. “

Yet after half a century of national politics, Mr. Biden knows better than anyone how quickly the news cycle is changing. His advisers and allies expect another round of harsh criticism around the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, with images showing the Taliban flag flying over Kabul.

In the days or weeks that follow, however, they assume that attention will once again turn to the coronavirus pandemic, the president’s proposals for major public works and welfare programs, and a dozen or so. other problems that will absorb the public more than far. Afghanistan.



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Newsrust - US Top News: Biden plays the long game on withdrawal from Afghanistan
Biden plays the long game on withdrawal from Afghanistan
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