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So far, there are indications that the president should have listened better to his military advisers than to his guts.
The Afghan war, of course, dragged on for over two decades and has become a stopping action that is unsatisfactory for anyone. But the cost to the US of keeping 3,500 soldiers in the country for over a year without losing anyone in combat was not high compared to the perfectly plausible downside of al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamist extremists who are returning to Afghanistan Power come.
The desire to withdraw from Afghanistan was an area of the rare deal between Biden and Trump. The daring ceasefire agreement between then President Donald Trump and the Taliban in February 2020 determined the predicate for Biden’s withdrawal. It would have taken Biden some determination to undo the US promise in this deal to withdraw his troops by May 2021, although the Taliban’s transparent bad faith provided ample reason to do so.
Biden says not to worry. The US will continue to support the Afghan government “over the horizon”, ie from a distance.
This is likely a pipe dream, and nothing about Biden’s ill-conceived drawdown gives it any more credibility. The US withdrawal was quick and luckily it was carried out without losses. Otherwise it has the hallmarks of a fiasco.
The CIA has struggled to figure out what to do to maintain intelligence-gathering capabilities in Afghanistan. The agency has been very active in the country over the years, hitting terrorist targets in Afghanistan and Pakistan. There is no doubt that their operations will now be severely restricted.
There will be no targets to be attacked “behind the horizon” if we don’t have the resources to find them.
Ideally, the US would set up another base next to Afghanistan, but there aren’t any good options in the neighborhood. Pakistan, which is untrustworthy and supports the Taliban, is inherently problematic. Vladimir Putin will not see it well if we use the former Soviet republics.
Conducting operations from bases in the Persian Gulf eight hours away is clearly not the same as operating from Bagram. In a testimony before Congress, General Kenneth McKenzie, head of Central Command, said the long-distance missions were “extremely difficult” but “not impossible.” This is not a ringing endorsement.
The US trigger had other troubling loose ends.
The contractors who worked with the Afghan Air Force to maintain their aircraft are also leaving and may be withdrawing air support from the Afghan forces. An official said The New York Times that Afghans would not be able to maintain their own Black Hawks until the mid-2030s. The administration has considered several clunky alternatives for the contractor’s problem, including assisting with remote aircraft maintenance.
The fate of the Afghans who supported US forces – and their families – is uncertain, though Biden pledged to get them out under political pressure here at home.
Biden wants to give the Afghans $ 3 billion in security aid, but who will do the training with that money?
Allies are leaving, with the government keen to get the Turks to stay in order to secure Kabul International Airport, which is vital to keeping the US embassy and aid agencies in the country.
While the bad news in Afghanistan has been mounting in recent weeks – The Long War Journal website follows the drumbeat of Taliban’s gains – the Biden government has tried to send reassuring signals. One way out is to keep our Supreme Commander in Afghanistan, General Austin Miller, in the country for a few more weeks. But shouldn’t the Afghans and the Taliban notice that almost all of their troops have already withdrawn?
When Miller leaves The New York Times According to reports, General Kenneth McKenzie will take over the authority to carry out air strikes against al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Tampa, Florida “at least until August” and, if necessary, move an additional 300 soldiers to Afghanistan “at least until September.”
How is that in the long run?
One justification for leaving Afghanistan is that it frees us up resources to focus on the growing threat posed by China. However, it is not the case that the 3,000 ground troops are relocating to East Asia and changing the balance of power there. On the contrary, if attacks on al-Qaeda targets have to be launched from the Persian Gulf in the future, longer and more elaborate flights for US planes are required, or an aircraft carrier has to be kept close to Afghanistan, it will rely on the kind of resources that we need to check china.
In addition, rainfall control becomes a consuming issue for the US military when a disintegration occurs in Afghanistan.
Biden got his drawdown. Now he can harvest the whirlwind.