When President Joe Biden announced in the spring that he planned to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan, it appeared to be a politically agile decision by a government that quickly replaced the chaos of the Trump years with competence. The nearly twenty-year-long war had long since disappeared from American headlines and consciousness. Left-wing and right-wing voters were eager to end a largely forgotten conflict that Biden’s predecessors had allowed to become America’s longest-running war through a combination of inattention and sloppy strategy.
Yet the manner in which the withdrawal was carried out, and also the triumph of the Taliban, has had a political impact on Biden, which has surprised me and other journalists who covered the conflict and long ago assumed that the general public had lost interest in it. Opinion polls and pollsters now say Biden’s handling of Afghanistan is one of two questions – the other being his response to the Delta variant – which has played a role in his approval ratings, approaching Gerald Ford’s and Donald Trump’s at the same stage of their presidencies. . . The majority of Americans were in favor of ending the war, but the Taliban’s exclusion of Afghan women and girls from school, the abandonment of Afghans who allied with the US effort, and continued violence from ISIS seems to have taken a toll. On Friday, one apparently came ISIS attacks, the second in a week, killed more than forty Shiite minority Muslims as they prayed in a mosque in the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar – the latest in several signs that the Taliban are fighting to rule the country.
The decline in bid approval is among crucial voting groups for Democrats, such as women, independents and young people. Despite several years of Islamophobic, anti-immigrant fear practices by Trump (and a long American tradition of xenophobia), nearly 70 percent of Americans surveyed support the resettlement of Afghan allies after undergoing security investigations in this country. . The Americans have not been so accommodating for decades: a majority was against the resettlement of allies from Vietnam, Cuba and Hungary, and of refugees from nations brutalized and affected by dictators and disasters, from Syria to Haiti.
Of course, Afghanistan’s political significance may disappear if the nation stays out of the headlines. Biden’s handling of the pandemic and the economy, and whether Congress adopts his domestic agenda, will clearly be more important to voters in the midterm elections. But analysts say the erroneous withdrawal contributed to doubts about the key premise of Biden’s presidency: that he can rule effectively. “Many Americans enjoyed the sense of calm that had fallen over the government after four tumultuous years under former President Donald Trump – and endorsed Biden because he represented to them a more competent leader,” Nathaniel Rakich, senior election analyst at FiveThirtyEight, wrote this week. . “But Afghanistan, and also the delta variant, broke the calm and raised questions about whether Biden was really that competent anyway.”
Democratic members of Congress and U.S. aid workers – nominees allied with the administration – say the poor planning and lack of coordination that hit the retreat continues. They said the State Department and other federal agencies have reacted slowly or randomly when asked to help evacuate Afghan allies on private charter flights. Three weeks ago, the Taliban barred female police officers, judges, pilots and scientists from doing their jobs, a service member who organized evacuations as a private citizen said: “Female college students who planned to return to campus this fall now have to deal to forced marriages, as they are told that their only place in society is in the home. ” Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut and usually a staunch supporter of the administration, said dozens of Americans and thousands of Afghan allies remain trapped in Afghanistan, six weeks after U.S. troops left, saying the administration was not doing enough to help them, and that their safe departure should be a precondition for any conversation with the Taliban. “There is more that can be done,” he said. “I am still not convinced that it is a sufficiently high priority. says more than words. “
At rallies and in television interviews, Trump has signaled his intention to distort events in Afghanistan and turn it into yet another Benghazi-like wedge issue to motivate his base. On October 9, at a demonstration in Iowa, he mentioned Afghanistan thirteen times and erroneously claimed that Biden and U.S. military leaders had left the bodies of U.S. soldiers, leaving $ 85 billion worth of military equipment. “These guys are big losers,” Trump said, adding later, “Afghanistan is the most embarrassing event in our country’s history.”
A journalist who was recently in Kabul told me that at present the Taliban does not have the necessary expertise to govern a modern state. Thousands of Afghans, many of them women and educated professionals, still want to flee their regime. This week, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said an immediate injection of funding from the United States and other nations is needed to prevent the collapse of the Afghan economy. Government workers have not been paid, food prices are rising and banks are running out of cash. “The crisis is affecting at least eighteen million people – half the country’s population,” Guterres said, adding that the international community is in a “race against time” when temperatures drop. International officials warn that as winter approaches, the Biden administration must engage more intensively to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe. European leaders fear that Afghanistan, a nation of about 38 million people, could create a refugee crisis reminiscent of the one triggered by the war in Syria.
The Taliban, meanwhile, appear brave. This week, following the group’s first meeting with U.S. diplomats since the withdrawal, Suhail Shaheen, a spokesman for the regime, said it would not cooperate with Washington in restricting Islamic State. “We are able to tackle Daesh independently,” Shaheen said, using the Arabic acronym for the group. General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified last month that a “reconstituted Al Qaeda or ISIS with aspirations to attack the United States is a very real possibility ”in Afghanistan within the next twelve to thirty-six months.
Human rights defenders warn that the unrest in Afghanistan exemplifies a broader pattern: the norms and multilateral organizations introduced by the United States and European countries after World War II to help refugees and to defend human rights are steadily weakening. They said the administration’s unilateral withdrawal from Afghanistan undermines the credibility of Biden’s pledge to restore US support for international law and internationalism after Trump spent four years cracking down on them. “You can not say that you stand for human rights and do this,” said Sanam Naraghi Anderlini, founder and CEO of the International Civil Society Action Network, a non-profit organization that promoted peace talks and women’s rights in Afghanistan. “You can not say that you stand for multilateralism and do this.” She argued that the United States was relinquishing its responsibility for the crisis in Afghanistan and leaving it to private citizens and organizations to rescue Afghans. Her group alone has received requests from thousands of people for evacuation. “Who are we to be the lifeline for over two thousand Afghans?” she asked. She predicted that the withdrawal “is not the epilogue to the end of the war on terror: you are actually creating war forever because you are not doing it in a responsible way.” Regardless of Biden’s intentions, the United States’ withdrawal from the country has unintended consequences. Afghanistan, of course, can once again disappear from American consciousness. Or abominable sexism, brutality and hunger in the country can make it linger there.
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