Neither Joe Biden nor his team feel in any way responsible for the collapse of the precarious Afghan state, built during two decades of war with an elevated cost of living. “And Afghan leaders have to come together … They’ve got to fight for themselves, fight for their nation,” the president said last Tuesday.
After those declarations, the Pentagon decided to send 3,000 soldiers to Afghanistan to facilitate the partial evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul while the Taliban advances rapidly toward the capital. The diplomatic mission will leave only emergency staff.
The mission will involve two Marine Corps brigades and a U.S. Army brigade, all of whom will deploy in the Hamid Karzai International Airport, according to yesterday’s statement from Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby. “This is a narrowly focused mission to help safeguard an orderly reduction of the civil personnel outside of Afghanistan,” Kirby told journalists during a press conference.
Hours earlier, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki explained that there would be no more U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan, despite the rapid advance of the Islamists. Regarding the Afghan armed forces, Psaki said, “They have what they need. What they need to determine is if they have the political will to fight back, and if they have the ability to unite as leaders to fight back.”
Moments before, the White House received news that hundreds of Afghan soldiers had surrendered to the Taliban guerrillas in the north of the country, the area where the U.S. invasion began in 2001.
Around 10 provincial capitals have already fallen into rebel hands. The 11th is Herat, seized, according to witnesses quoted by the AP agency, this Thursday. The Taliban said that it controlled the city after the collapse of the city’s defense lines. The Spanish army was deployed in Herat, and participated in the mission in Afghanistan until its return home this May.
The Islamists have their sights set on the capital, Kabul, and the latest U.S. intelligence reports to the national media ensure that the city could collapse in 90 days, halving the previous estimation from less than a month ago.
Facing a similar collapse, the White House says now that its priority is a diplomatic agreement. Therefore, last week, Biden’s press team warned the Taliban guerrillas that they could remain isolated in the international community if they don’t respect the democratic rules of the game. According to Psaki who spoke on Wednesday, “The Taliban also has to make an assessment about what they want their role to be in the international community.”
Biden is washing his hands and leaving the Afghans alone to face the unstoppable return of the totalitarians: “They’ve got to fight for themselves.”
The U.S. has, in fact, spent two decades at war with the Taliban who, before being defeated, established a terror regime for women and religious minorities, as well as protecting Al Qaida and Osama bin Laden. Never, in all these years, have they mentioned in their plans any kind of democracy.
In the war they fought until their triumphant return, a total of 2,452 American soldiers died in the longest conflict in U.S. history. The total number of lives lost to the war is 157,000, according to a study from Brown University. Among them, 43,000 were civilians. It has cost the U.S. $1 trillion to educate and train the Afghan armed forces that are collapsing today.
Meanwhile, the U.S. continues to negotiate with the same Taliban groups that are quickly and effectively advancing in Afghanistan. A series of meetings are taking place in Qatar between rebels, the U.S., Russia, China, the E.U., the U.N. and its Central Asian neighbors. The Iranian regime was invited but didn’t attend. This is the most ambitious round of contact since dialogue was started two years ago, at the request of Donald Trump.
Washington’s intention is to demonstrate that the entire international community, including its rivals in Moscow and Beijing, is facing a common enemy in the completely isolated Taliban groups. However, Russia, just like China and Iran, has maintained its own direct contact with the Taliban, and its true intentions remain a mystery for the White House.
The former U.S. president, Trump, has been very critical of the way in which the White House is ending two decades of war, although it was he who decided that the withdrawal should be finalized this year. “If I were now president, the world would find that our withdrawal from Afghanistan would be a conditions-based withdrawal. I personally had discussions with top Taliban leaders whereby they understood what they are doing would not have been acceptable.”
When Biden assumed the presidency, 3,500 American soldiers remained in the country. (The official figures show 2,500, but a month ago the Pentagon admitted that it had manipulated them throughout the years.) Now, after the Sept. 11 deadline, only 650 American soldiers will remain in Afghanistan, to protect the diplomatic mission in Kabul.