Implications of the Withdrawal from Afghanistan – Views from Washington, DC and Ankara
This is true from East Asia to Operation Forward Presence in Eastern Europe to the Persian Gulf and beyond. In June, President Biden and allies met and agreed on common paths to bolster security, economic engagement, the response to COVID-19, among other issues, at the G7, NATO, and U.S.-EU summits. At that time a key topic of focus and decision-making was Afghanistan and the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces. Member states all signed-off at the NATO Brussels Summit.
Policymakers in the White House are feeling the fierce urgency of now to address pressing additional threats that the Trump Administration largely ignored or exacerbated...
Over the last several months the Biden Administration has been crystal clear and consultative with allies and partners about the policy and cooperation needed to address COVID-19, climate change, threats to democracies, and China and Russia. Hard security, including the fight against terrorism, will continue to be a significant U.S. focus, along with threats posed by Russia. However, policymakers in the White House are feeling the fierce urgency of now to address pressing additional threats that the Trump Administration largely ignored or exacerbated, including climate change, empowering autocrats and weakening democracy and human rights. The damage that Administration caused to transatlantic relations handicapped and profoundly set back our ability to address this array of challenges.
Now, partners of the United States should be rallying around a U.S. Administration that is willing to make tough decisions with international partners, including the withdrawal of the military from Afghanistan, while reorienting U.S. diplomacy, assistance, and defense for present and future threats. Given the enormous stakes, the transatlantic community would be better served to point fewer fingers and build on concrete steps to advance policies that will strengthen democracies, economies, and protect our natural environment now and for the choppy waters ahead.
- Jonathan Katz, Director of Democracy Initiatives in Washington, DC
With the way which it executed the withdrawal from Afghanistan, the U.S. gave wrong messages to both allies and adversaries. The withdrawal was also emblematic of mistakes made during the last 20 years and can be seen as a course correction. However, it would be wrong to assume that the U.S. is leaving Afghanistan as a space for others such as China and Russia to fill. Afghanistan will not be one country governed by one one Taliban with a moderate ideology. First of all, the Taliban will not be able to control all of the country and pockets of uncontrolled territory will become safe havens for radical organizations, which may even target Taliban. While we talk of Taliban as a singular organization, in reality it is as diverse and decentralized as Afghanistan itself. The only binding factor for this loosely structured organization is its radical ideology. Therefore the cost of the Taliban leadership turning its back on radicalism could be further lack of cohesion among its ranks. China can make its deals with Taliban only to see that Taliban groups at local level are not honoring this agreement.
Afghanistan is not a prize for anyone to win. It will become a blackhole at the center of Asia that will consume the energies of countries with proximity including China, Russia, India, and Iran.
Afghanistan is not a prize for anyone to win. It will become a blackhole at the center of Asia that will consume the energies of countries with proximity including China, Russia, India, and Iran. Turkey will also be impacted severely—not least because of new influx of Afghan refugees. Europe is not immune, as some of those refugees will certainly make their way to Europe. U.S. interests in the Middle East and Central Asia will also be threatened by terrorist groups with new opportunities in Afghanistan, including access to U.S. weapons left behind during the withdrawal.
This is a turning point in history and the end of the post 9/11 era. Mistakes have been made during the last 20 years and statements by the Biden Presidency show that lessons have been drawn. The one lesson that Europe seems to have drawn is that European allies should increase their defense capabilities, which is a good thing for the overall alliance capacity of NATO. However, what we need even more than defense capabilities will be realism. Future NATO operations should have clear and achievable goals and an exit strategy that prevents mission creep. Turkey, as the NATO ally that is most exposed to risks emanating from Afghanistan, should not be left alone to seek reassurance outside of the Transatlantic Community.
-Özgür Ünlühisarcıklı, Ankara Office Director
The Taliban’s Return to Power Is a Scathing Illustration of the Post-American World that Is Taking Shape
It took only ten days for the Taliban to regain control of Afghanistan and to celebrate in their own way the 20th anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001. This lightning recapture and President Joe Biden’s determination to withdraw American troops stunned the world.