We are approaching the one-year anniversary of the collapse of the U.S.-backed Afghan government and its replacement with the Taliban. The Diplomat’s managing editor, Catherine Putz, spoke with Justine Fleischner of Afghan Peace Watch about what has transpired since then. Fleischner’s account is a damning indictment of the Biden administration as human rights abuses accumulate in Afghanistan and transnational terrorist threats reemerge.
Fleischner noted that the Taliban rule has wrecked an already fragile economy; denied women educational and employment opportunities, access to health care, and freedom of movement; and resulted in the abduction, torture, and killing of at least 500 former members of the Afghan security forces.
Meanwhile, the Taliban have established diplomatic relations with China, Russia, Pakistan, and Iran. Fleischner said that the Taliban “maintain longstanding ties with a host of regional terrorist groups, including the Pakistani Taliban (TTP), Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), and Kashmiri groups.” Al-Qaeda and ISIS-K are reportedly active within Afghanistan.
According to Fleischner, the United States appears to lack any strategy for Afghanistan and “seems eager to move on from the botched evacuation effort.” The non-profit organization No One Left Behind, Fleischner noted, estimates that the administration left behind more than 160,000 Afghans who are eligible for Special Immigrant Visas. China, meanwhile, has provided economic support for the Taliban regime and is expected to include Afghanistan in its Belt and Road Initiative.
“The Taliban,” Fleischner said, “has clearly prioritized its religious and ideological agenda over the economy and the humanitarian needs of the Afghan people.”
The Diplomat’s headline reads, “A year after the Taliban retook Afghanistan, economic collapse, human rights abuses, and terrorist threats loom large.”
In August 2021, President Joe Biden characterized the U.S. pullout from Afghanistan as an “extraordinary success.” He claimed that, after deciding to leave Afghanistan in April 2021, his national security team “prepare[d] for every eventuality.” And then he blamed the Trump administration for creating conditions that complicated the pullout. “We succeeded in what we set out to do in Afghanistan over a decade ago,” Biden said. “Then we stayed for another decade. It was time to end this war…. We saw a mission of counterterrorism in Afghanistan … morph into a counterinsurgency, nation building — trying to create a democratic, cohesive, and unified Afghanistan.” And while Biden was right that it may have been time to end the war, how his administration went about it has had dreadful consequences for the Afghan people and has detrimentally impacted America’s credibility in world affairs. (READ MORE: Afghanistan: How It Became America’s Disaster)
American credibility is now at stake in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait. As I have noted here previously, Biden’s Afghan pullout has echoes of Kennedy’s Bay of Pigs failure in 1961. Soviet leaders took the measure of Kennedy and thought they could get away with installing nuclear missiles in Cuba, leading to the most serious crisis of the Cold War. If China’s leaders doubt Biden’s credibility — and they have plenty of reasons to do so — they may believe they can get away with using force against Taiwan. The greatest crisis of the post–Cold War world may be upon us.
Author: Francis P. Sempa