Trumped

When the US was under Trump, Donald J., I always said that whoever was going to be the President after him would have his, or her work cut out for him/her. The Trump era was so self-centered (in more ways than one) that the reputation of the nation as a credible world leader fell to its lowest. His attitude towards his allies was strained at best, and he was all googly-eyed for authoritarians Putin, Xi and Kim, traditionally seen as the “enemy” with whom he always boasted that he had a great relationship. Well, except maybe Xi what with the trade war and all…

Then Joe Biden comes along, beats Trump (regardless of whatever else Trump and his ilk may say), and takes over. Biden proudly declares that the US is back. People seem to be looking around and saying, “explain.” People thought this would mean that the US would be less of an ass, and more a good neighbor. So far, it’s not happening. Case in point: Afghanistan.

To be fair, Biden did not lose Afghanistan. The US never had it to begin with. Bush Jr. sent troops there to find and kill Osama bin Laden, head of the terror group Al Qaeda who was then residing in Afghanistan. He warned the Taliban who were then lording it over the land not to interfere, or else. Well, the Taliban just kicked the Russians, or the then USSR out of Afghanistan, and was not in the mood for another invasion.

Worse, the US couldn’t take out Osama early in the campaign; so, they had to change tack and think of a new justification for their stay. Be that as it may, they did not seem to be motivated by any love for the Afghan people; so, whatever they did was always half-hearted. How can it be any different when the US just generally saw them as the enemy. It was Vietnam all over again. They seem to have that “shoot them all, let God sort them out” mindset.

Then came Obama whose main weakness seems to be foreign affairs. Maybe he couldn’t be blamed for this since he was trying to get the US out of the sub-prime mortgage crisis, and the global financial crisis that we were all in at the time. Note that it was also during his term when the Philippines confronted China in the South China Sea that the US tried to resolve by getting into an agreement with China for a mutual de-escalation, and when the Philippines pulled out, China did not, and fortified itself.

Back in Afghanistan, nothing really happened, and Biden, who was then Vice President, was advocating for an end to the campaign and pull the troops out. Instead, the Surge happened. This was intended to protect the Afghans from militants, and already far from the original program.

Then Trump came along and one of the most bizarre things happened: a US Administration negotiated with the Taliban for the US pullout. What made it more unbelievable was the fact that the then Afghan government was completely left out of the negotiations. Negotiations that had terms like the release of prisoners held by the Afghan government. That’s how “self-centered” the US was at the time of Trump. Everything was transactional. “America First” simply meant whatever was advantageous to the US and everyone else be damned.

Parenthetically, it appears that the Afghan Taliban was not in the list of terrorist organizations of the State Department. However, it appears to be listed with the National Counterterrorism Center. Perhaps the State list is the main basis because, well, the US has a policy of not negotiating with terrorists and if Trump did it, then the Taliban must not be on the list.

Now that Biden was President, he simply implemented what he was advocating before, which, in a way, was now made more certain with Trump’s agreement with the Taliban. What was probably surprising was the speed by which the government collapsed before the pullout was even completed.

Honestly, I think the Afghan government would have folded one way or another. The fact that it was engaging the Taliban in talks in Qatar, if I remember correctly, already showed that it wasn’t on solid footing. The Taliban has been busy improving its position via targeted assassinations, and PR tours over the years that local governments just gave up without a fight in most cases. The US and its allies supposedly trained the Afghan soldiers but without their presence, the Afghans did not have the resolve to stand up against the Taliban.

And this is not the failure of the Biden Administration. It is the failure of the US and its allies from the beginning. Biden was just the guy who had the unenviable task of writing finis to the misadventure that was the longest war they ever fought.

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