September 25, 2023

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Afghanistan exit: Biden’s choice or a necessity?

TEHRAN- In an article on August 9, CNN analyzed Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018 by calling it “one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into.”

The article says the Iran deal, in fact, was substantially monitoring the Iranian nuclear program, according to U.S. intelligence agencies and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Oddly enough, according to CNN, Trump soon entered into negotiations for what would become, in reality, one of America’s most one-sided and self-defeating deals: the agreement with the Taliban to pull out all U.S. troops from Afghanistan. This agreement was later implemented by Joe Biden.

That withdrawal ended in the hasty retreat of U.S. forces and the chaotic scenes of thousands of desperate Afghans trying to get on flights out of Kabul Airport in August 2021. Televised scenes of the chaos at the airport make the fall of Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War look like a dignified exit, CNN commented.

Although two years have passed since the withdrawal, experts keep discussing the issue.

“How Trump made one of the worst diplomatic agreements in US history and how Biden carried it out” was the title of the CNN article written by Peter Bergen, CNN’s national security analyst, and Laura Tillman, producer of the podcast.

It examined how Trump, contrary to his claims about the “Art of the Deal,” arranged a bad deal with the Taliban.  

The agreement led to the rise of the Taliban, which, according to CNN, has led to many problems for women and girls in Afghanistan among other issues. “Two years ago, the Trump team negotiated the complete US withdrawal from Afghanistan that gave the Taliban the total victory they could never win on the battlefield,” added CNN.

Biden’s top military adviser, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. Mark Milley, told Biden that unless the U.S. kept a small military force in Afghanistan — at the time, around 2,500 troops – the Afghan military would collapse, which would pave the way for a Taliban victory, CNN reported. According to the news network, the U.S. is keeping 10 times more forces in South Korea to ensure peace and security.

According to the report, before the departure of the American forces, the Taliban had not been able to capture any of the provincial capitals in Afghanistan. In the end, the report added that the return of the Taliban led to the greater power of Al-Qaeda.

The reason why the withdrawal took place cannot be attributed to Biden’s personal decision. There are significant points that will be mentioned below:

The U.S. made a mistake more than two decades ago when it invaded Afghanistan. Articles similar to the one by CNN show that the American officials were wrong in their analysis of the situation in Afghanistan. In the last decade of the 20th century, when the Soviet Union collapsed, the U.S. began to promote its values in what it conceived as the American-led unipolar world. The idea of spreading order based on liberal democracy as the so-called superior system became the main strategy of the United States. The illusion of spreading American democracy around the world convinced the U.S. that it could end the activities of terrorist groups by establishing a democratic government in Afghanistan.

In fact, the United States, suffering from a misunderstanding of the nature of terrorist groups, imagined that the establishment of a democratic government in Afghanistan could spell the end terrorist activities in the country. However, terrorism in Central Asia and West Asia came into existence in response to neo-colonialist approach of Washington the region. In fact, the American occupation of Afghanistan basically helped generate terrorism; the same thing happened in Iraq as the country became a safe haven for ISIS after years of American occupation.

Of course, countering terrorism was not the primary goal of the United States. The ultimate goal was to establish liberal regimes around the world that would accept the U.S. leadership. However, the culture and identity of Afghanistan did not welcome it. The Taliban government was overthrown, but the subsequent governments in Afghanistan were weak despite support by the United States. The Americans had not still packed their bags to leave that the Taliban forces regained power by capturing the presidential palace. If the United States had correctly recognized the culture and identity of Afghanistan, none of these events would have happened. However, at the end of two decades of endless war in Afghanistan, leaving the country was the only option for the U.S.

On the other hand, before the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, American officials had realized that everything in Afghanistan had progressed in favor of the Taliban, and the regional powers had acknowledged the Taliban’s control over Afghanistan.

China and Russia had started their relations with the Taliban long before the complete withdrawal of the U.S. from Afghanistan. So, the U.S. was sure that Ashraf Ghani’s government could not survive. As a result, its continued presence in Afghanistan could cause reactions by China and Russia or a bloody conflict between the Taliban and the American forces. It could lead to more losses for Americans in comparison to two-decade-long military presence in Afghanistan.    

The American miscalculation resulted in fall of Ghani’s government, and the Afghan army was unable to prevent it. The U.S. thought it could build a powerful army by arming them with modern weaponry. But the army that was established suffered from a corrupt and ineffective structure that could not resist the Taliban. The U.S. miscalculation caused the American military equipment, including 70,000 armored vehicles and more than 100 helicopters, to fall into the hands of the Taliban.

Regardless of the internal situation in Afghanistan and the United States’ mistakes, we cannot ignore the international condition and its impact on Afghanistan. Although reports like the one published by CNN attribute the incident (U.S. forces withdrawal) to the choices of Biden or Trump, it was the general condition in the U.S. and the international situation that played a major role in the American officials’ decision. Probably any other government in the U.S. would have made a similar decision sooner or later. Basically, the change in America’s strategy towards Afghanistan started a long time ago since the Obama administration.

But what is the meaning of the change in international conditions that obliged the U.S. to withdraw from Afghanistan? These changes stem from a situation that experts refer to as the American decline. The United States, faced with the increasing influence of emerging powers, especially China, witnesses its hegemony in danger. As a result, the U.S. has to avoid additional problems that deviate it from focusing on dealing with China. The U.S. used more than 775,000 troops and spend $2 trillion in its 20-year occupation of Afghanistan. How could the United States compete with China by continuing this unnecessary expenditure? As a result, the current situation does not seem to have much to do with Biden’s personal choices.

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