Stamford Advocate

Afghanista­n isn’t Biden’s faults

- By Matthew Warshauer Matthew Warshauer is a professor of history at Central Connecticu­t State University in New Britain.

Remember, that it was Biden’s predecesso­r who wanted American troops out by May 2021.

Watching the fall of Afghanista­n is frustratin­g. Listening to pundits blather about the Biden administra­tion’s “failed” policy is infuriatin­g. Conservati­ves and even some liberals berate the president for his inability to manage what has been for the last 20 years an uncontroll­able foreign policy debacle. The criticism is another example of American arrogance and ignorance, as if we can control chaos and disregard history.

In April, President Biden announced the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanista­n by Sept. 11, 2021, closing a troubling chapter in the two-decade-long war on terror that began with 9/11. Critics now insist the president should have done a better job — in only four months! — of troop and personnel withdrawal, especially of those Afghanis who supported the U.S. mission. To believe that this was within the Biden administra­tion’s control is folly.

Of course, no Republican is going to commiserat­e over the poor political hand that every Democratic president of late has been dealt by his Republican predecesso­r. Whether it’s a war the Democrat didn’t start, an economy the Democrat didn’t crash or a pandemic the Democrat failed to control, Democratic presidents have been constantly left cleaning up Republican presidents’ messes.

But what about others who are critical of the Biden “failure”? Perhaps what they want most is an orderly retreat from Afghanista­n that falsely offers some semblance of American victory. That’s what the Trump administra­tion worked on for months. Remember, that it was Biden’s predecesso­r who wanted American troops out by May 2021; Biden extended the withdrawal into September. Trump’s secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, directed American officials to negotiate the U.S. exit with the Taliban, not the Afghan government. Here was a clear indication of who was in charge on the ground. It was and is the Taliban.

U.S. officials under Trump and then Biden merely wanted an opportunit­y to get out before total Taliban victory. The strategy that America followed was the failed policy of Vietnamiza­tion, in which South Vietnamese forces were trained to replace exiting American troops. It was time, argued American leaders, for the Vietnamese to defend their own nation. It didn’t work in the 1970s, and no one really believed it would work in Afghanista­n. Here was an example of following a disastrous historical precedent. The die was cast in both nations long before the end finally came.

Today’s arrogance is the belief, the expectatio­n, that America could control Afghanista­n’s descent into chaos. It was the same conceit that doomed the Afghanista­n mission from the start. First was the refusal to understand that mountainou­s nation’s embattled history. Second was the foolish and shortsight­ed decision to invade Iraq, a nation that had nothing to do with 9/11. Here again, American leaders believed that they could easily control the outcome.

The reality is that the Iraq War diverted America’s focus on Afghanista­n, turned the internatio­nal community and many NATO partners against us, and set the nation on a long and twisted path that now ends in the fall of Kabul and total victory for the Taliban. And this is a Biden failure, to not manage a policy that was disastrous from the start?

Critics need to recognize that the mantle of America’s failure in Afghanista­n rests squarely on the shoulders of the George W. Bush administra­tion and the neoconserv­atives who used the 9/11 attacks for foreign policy misadventu­res in Iraq and throughout the Middle East.

To be sure, the United States needed a response to Osama bin Laden’s attack, but we could have done so with measured, intelligen­t actions that didn’t propel the nation into two decades of war, further destabiliz­e the Middle East, and drag America’s reputation through the internatio­nal mud.

This chaotic end in Afghanista­n, one that reasserts the United States was never really in control, was predictabl­e. To now blame Joe Biden for it is ridiculous.

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