Joe Biden was elected to the presidency of the United States as a man who knows a lot about foreign policy and national security. However, the very first international crisis that his administration faced raised doubts about this. Even worse, this crisis was largely created by Biden himself. The hasty, fatal US withdrawal from Afghanistan hit his personal rating hard and undermined the credibility of the United States from other countries, including its closest allies.
The longest 20-year war in the history of the United States in Afghanistan began and continued under other presidents, but it is Biden who is responsible for the current events. This is being said now not only by his political opponents from among the Republicans (even the word “impeachment” was spoken in their camp), but also by independent experts, including military specialists.
Speaking at the White House on Tuesday, Biden argued that the evacuation of US and foreign citizens from Afghanistan was “extremely successful.” However, even the liberal media, which openly supported him in last year’s elections, assessed the operation as a “political catastrophe” and “moral trag-edy.” The newspaper Polit-ico called August 26, as a result of the attacks near Kabul airport killed 13 US troops and about 200 Afghan “darkest day” of his presidency. The last time US troops in Afghanistan suffered combat losses a year and a half ago.
According to Fox television, fears are growing in the Democratic Party that the Afghan fiasco will negatively affect the midterm elections to Congress in November 2022, and if there are also domestic economic problems, then the presidential elections in 2024. However, not all experts – and not only from among the staunch supporters of Biden – believe that the failure of the United States in Afghanistan will be fatal for his stay in the White House. In their opinion, he may well survive this political crisis.
Who is the last one?
Biden is right when he emphasizes that the agreement with the Taliban movement on the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan was concluded by the Trump administration, and he, in fact, only pushed the deadline from April 30 to August 31. But in any case, the evacuation was poorly organized, the Afghan government failed to retain power, and the Taliban immediately seized almost the entire territory of the country, where terrorists from Al-Qaeda and Islamic State remained. This is precisely the main claim to Biden and his foreign policy team. “The likelihood of another 9/11 has fallen on our heads,” said Republican Senator Lindsay Graham (of South Carolina).
Now the presidential aide for national security, Jake Sullivan, assures that everything was done in accordance with the “unanimous recommendations” of the heads of the State Department, the Pentagon, the Committee of Chiefs of Staff, as well as military leaders in the conflict zone. However, as it became known to the newspapers The New York Times and of The Journal the Wall Street General, the CIA warned Biden that the Afghan army can quickly fall apart under the pressure of the militants and the US embassy reported to Washington that Kabul will fall much sooner than expected.
“Over time, Biden will undoubtedly choose someone to be punished,” writes The Atlantic. “Too much has been done wrong, and voters should not have the feeling that no one was held accountable for it.” However, for now, the president is showing confidence in his closest advisers and is not going to make anyone a scapegoat. If he now dismiss or demote one of them, it will only draw unnecessary attention to the mistakes of his administration and give additional trump cards in the hands of his opponents.
Could all this have been done better? “Of course, we need to look at what went wrong and why and who made what decisions,” the former US Ambassador to NATO, Ivo Daalder, who now heads the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, replies in The Atlantic. At the same time, the ex-diplomat adds, the government in Kabul collapsed “not beca-use of [Defense Secretary] Lloyd Austin or Jake Sullivan.” “The Afghan government collapsed because we convinced ourselves that we were giving it enough support to stay on its feet,” Daalder said.
Confused and embittered
The Afghan crisis marked the end of Biden’s honeymoon relationship with the Americans, although their marriage contract remained in place. Back in early August, more than half of his compatriots approved of his work as president, and now, according to the latest polls, only 46.8% of respondents speak positively about him. According to the political science portal Real Clear Politics, 48.7% of voters are dissatisfied with his work. For the first time, the difference between these indicators was recorded with a minus sign, and only one reason is seen – the unsuccessful completion of the military operation in Afghanistan.
There are other troubling news for Biden. Former economic adviser to President George W. Bush, Stanford University professor Michael Boskin warns of rising inflation. And another prominent economist, Nouriel Roubini, who worked in the White House under Bill Clinton, fearsthat the rise in prices will be accompanied by a slowdown in the economy and stagflation may turn into “even a debt crisis” for the United States. If these negative tendencies take root and overlap with the situation around Afghanistan, then the attitude of independent and undecided voters towards Biden will change. They may experience something akin to the buyer’s remorse that people often get after buying an expensive, but not the best, item, Boskin said.
The bill for Afghanistan can be presented to Biden and his Western European colleagues. According to the London correspondent of The New York Times, “British officials are confused and embittered”, believing that the current owner of the White House is behaving no better than his predecessor. “He humiliated not only Afghan, but also Western allies of Am-erica, showing that they are not capable of anything,” said former British Minister for Economic Development Rory Stewart. In turn, the former British ambassador to Washington, Peter West-makott, spoke in the sense that US foreign policy is subordinated to the interests of their inter-party struggle and therefore other countries should rely less on them in the field of security.
Not a priority
The Biden administration makes no secret of the fact that it looks at events in Afghanistan through the prism of their perception by all Americans. And these events, as the same sociological studies show, in recent years have not worried the citizens of the United States too much. This is largely why most of them supported Biden’s decision to withdraw troops (although fewer people hold this position now than, say, a month ago).
In addition, foreign policy has never been of paramount importance to Ame-ricans during elections, both presidential and mid-term. And the elections themselves are still far away. “The withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan can disappear from the mainstream news and from the memory of voters much faster than anyone thinks,” suggested The Hill newspaper. will not be a major in the November 2022 midterm congressional elections. “
One such observer, veteran American diplomat Dennis Ross, now at the Washington Institute for Middle East Policy, wrote in an article in The New York Times that the latest events in Afghanistan wo-uld “undermine trust” in the United States abroad and for some time allies and partners “will openly condemn the decisions made by the Americans.” Nonethel-ess, they will continue to support America and look to America for support themselves, “while still relying on the US economy and military.”
As for the consequences of the Afghan crisis for Biden, there are various ex-amples in history. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy calmly survived the failure of the Bay of Pigs (Coc-hinos) operation in Cuba to overthrow the government of Fidel Castro, although he subsequently fired CIA Director Allen Dulles. But Jimmy Carter never recovered from the capture and unsuccessful attempt to free American hostages in Iran in 1979-1980.
In this sense, much will probably depend on the development of the situation in Afghanistan itself. If his territory once again becomes a “launching pad” for Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, which will prepare attacks on Americans around the world, it will put an end to the Biden presidency. Therefore, the main question now is: what will remain there after the withdrawal of the US troops – a global terrorist threat or something else.