The way in which the invading U.S.-led coalition withdrew from the Asian country is a low point for Washington’s global prestige.
The American withdrawal from Afghanistan marks a blow to the image of the United States, a new landmark in what some consider to be the decline of the hegemonic power, a serious political problem for President Joe Biden and his Democratic allies and a renewed age of conflict for Afghanistan.
The way in which the U.S.-led coalition that invaded Afghanistan almost 20 years ago has withdrawn marks a low point for Washington’s global prestige and their reliability as an ally, but is more a grave political failure than a military defeat.
Images of Afghan citizens trying to leave the country by any means possible from Kabul airport, internal murmurings regarding the hasty withdrawal of troops and civilians and complaints by allied nations about the government’s conduct create reverberations felt beyond Kabul and Washington.
The Taliban movement will face a challenge. On one hand, it appears multi-factional and less monolithic, despite the distance between its promises of a less rigid Islamic regime and the reality of a radical base.
From the outset, the question is who will fill the void left by the U.S., and how will it be done. It’s assumed that countries like Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran or even Turkey — or the nations of the Arabian Peninsula — are looking, or will look, to approach the Taliban government.
Several of them have a long-standing interest in their respective borders with Afghanistan, to prevent it from becoming a haven or a base for militant Islamic movements. Many have an interest in advancing their own politics and brands of Islam; all have an interest in the likely wealth of natural resources, especially minerals.
There is also concern about an influx of refugees, both in nearby nations and in Europe.
The U.S. withdrawal provoked shifts and valuations from a geopolitical standpoint, which include the end of the Arab blockade of Qatar and reassessments in countries that, according to reports, range from Bangladesh, Myanmar, New Zealand to Egypt and Israel.
There are non-state actors with visions that could create problems for the new Taliban regime, such as Islamic State-Khorasan, with its ties to other groups in the region who claim to be part of the Islamic State group and see Afghanistan as a refuge or a headquarters.
The responsibility for the entire political mess will be attributed to Biden, whether described as an ignominious withdrawal or a shameful concession. He has already begun his defensive, with comments on the fulfillment of the promise to end a war that went on for almost 20 years, and that for many lasted 18 years longer than it should have.
But no explanation will prevent his critics, especially Republicans, from taking advantage of the images of the Kabul airport, the expressions of dissatisfaction from their allies, the abandonment of Afghan collaborators and the loss of dignity and prestige.