As the smoke is still clearing in Afghanistan, Americans are stranded, waiting on planes to leave the war-torn nation, and Biden’s top cabinet officials will be meeting with allies this week.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin are making a trip to the Middle East to speak with key partners in the Persian Gulf and Europe on the way.
President Joe Biden’s decision to precipitously withdraw from Afghanistan has increased national security challenges posed by China and Russia. While he pays lip service to the threat posed by these nations, his actions have only emboldened their plans to supplant US leadership abroad. Biden believes that China and Russia want us stuck in the quagmire of Afghanistan. It is likely valid. However, the alternative to overcommitment is not to cut and run.
Biden wants to “turn the page” on the 20-year effort to rein in Afghanistan’s Taliban, ISIS, terrorists, and violent Islamic extremists.
But US credibility in the Middle East has declined.
For years, the US military has had a presence in the Gulf, such as the Navy’s 5th Fleet headquarters in Bahrain. Austin is now telling the media that any danger posed to American individuals worldwide will not be tolerated. What was once a given, the US protects its citizens, is now in question.
In Bahrain, he will talk with Marines stationed there about the dangers of this operation. It reflects that 11 Marines were killed and 15 injured in an attack over a week ago on 26 August. Two American service members, Navy and Army, were also lost. He will likely visit UAE, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia to meet with crucial Gulf nation leaders.
Saudi Arabia is now dealing with Russia because Biden will probably redo the Iranian nuclear deal, which Trump appropriately scuttled. This whiplash only undermines US foreign policy.
Blinken goes to Qatar after a stopover in Germany to see Afghan evacuees at Ramstein airbase. He will also thank the German government for their support and meet virtually with partners from 20 other countries. Qatar has more recently been open to diplomatic relations with Turkey and Iran. Yet Qatar’s al-Udeid airbase was instrumental during the Kabul airdrop and in the US evacuation.
Afghanistan remains an object lesson in modern guerilla warfare as the Taliban and new versions of ISIS waited in caves until the US military evacuated. Then they quickly reconstituted armed bands of marauders, seizing land including the capital of Kabul, taking firearms and material, as well as slaughtering people who supported the American forces. Failures in managing the drawdown in Afghanistan relate specifically to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and their inability to maintain any semblance of skilled military deterrence.
In Europe, our partners evaluate the chaos in Afghanistan, and the repercussions of our hasty departure mean for their relationship with the United States. The European Union wants to act independently. NATO, which had a significant presence in Afghanistan, depended on US aircraft, transport, logistics, and bases to move troops. Some comments lead us to believe that many people were angered when they found out how this was handled and communicated. A poorly arranged pull-out and poor decision-making have strained our partnership with former allies, whether this is stated publicly. European nations are confronted that they cannot currently project power in the Asian region with US support. Many of these countries are presently housing Afghan refugees.