Biden to Afghanistan: Drop Dead

The Biden Administration appears to recognize – finally – that their pell-mell withdrawal from Afghanistan is going as badly as everyone said it would (well, everyone not named Donald Trump).

What is the response from the White House? Send an envoy to “meet with the Taliban’s political leadership this week to urge them ‘to stop their military offensive and to negotiate a political settlement.’ ” (ABC News).

Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby added some insult to injury:

U.S. officials have been calling on Afghan security forces to step up and “to use those advantages” and “to exert that leadership,” as Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said, that two decades of American training and investment were supposed to have brought to bear.

“We will certainly support from the air where and when feasible, but that’s no substitute for leadership on the ground. It’s no substitute for political leadership in Kabul. It’s no substitute for using the capabilities and capacity that we know they have,” Kirby told reporters Monday.

He might as well have just said, “Drop dead.”

It is becoming increasingly clear that the Administration is desperate to prevent its policy from looking like what it actually is: a surrender of Afghanistan to the enemy.

The maddening thing about all of this is that it wasn’t Biden’s idea (emphasis added).

U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad is in Doha, Qatar, where the Taliban leadership is based and where peace negotiations between them and the Afghan government of President Ashraf Ghani began last September.

Those negotiations have yielded nothing but an agenda and repeated commitments to keep talking. Khalilzad himself – who negotiated former President Donald Trump’s withdrawal deal with the Taliban and was retained by Biden – conceded last week that the two sides remain “far apart.”

Not only is Biden preserving a bad deal foisted in him by his predecessor, but he’s sticking to it despite the Taliban flagrantly violating it.

Once again, I cite Dr Sajjan Gohel of the Asia Pacific Foundation: “The Taliban is inseparable from al-Qaeda, with cultural, familial and political obligations from which it will remain unable to fully abandon, even were its leadership sincere in seeking to do so.” Cutting ties with al Qaeda was the signature gain of the “deal” Trump negotiated. Few, if any, thought the Taliban would follow through – and they haven’t.

Biden would have been – and still is – well within his rights to fold up the sham “negotiations” and walk away from Trump’s terrible deal. Instead, his Administration is piling fiction on top of fiction, including the bizarre notion that Pakistan – whose military has been aiding the Taliban for decades – will somehow help us talk the Taliban out of fighting.

Husain Haqqani – former Pakistani Ambassador to the United States – detailed the foolishness of this idea in Foreign Affairs.

Even after Pakistan became the logistical hub for U.S. forces in Afghanistan following 9/11, officials in Islamabad worried about India’s influence in Kabul. Pakistan’s military supported the Taliban, arguing that the group represented a reality on the ground that their country, as Afghanistan’s neighbor with an ethnically overlapping population, could not ignore. For Islamist sympathizers, including those within the establishment, there was also perverse pleasure in causing pain to the United States.

General Hamid Gul, a former head of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, spelled out publicly in 2014 how the ISI used aid provided by the United States after 9/11 to continue funding the Taliban and how it benefited from the U.S. decision to initially ignore the Afghan Islamist group in favor of its pursuit of al Qaeda. He told a television audience in 2014: “When history is written, it will be stated that the ISI defeated the Soviet Union in Afghanistan with the help of America. Then there will be another sentence. The ISI, with the help of America, defeated America.”

Why Biden is so determined to follow the policy of the fellow he just defenestrated from office is a mystery that will likely be solved in the future. For now, as maddening as all of this is, there is still time to reverse this mistake.

Biden still can, and should, accept that surrendering Afghanistan to the Taliban is a terrible idea, while also recognizing how unfair and nonsensical it is to demand the Afghan people fight all alone against a foreign-backed terrorist faction.

Losing this war is a choice. Trump made it. Biden can still unmake it.

But time is running out.

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