The Biden administration is using tactical issues as a new excuse for delaying the troop exit from Afghanistan after wasting time pursuing a faulty strategy that will now put US forces at risk, analysts told Sputnik.
On Thursday, President Joe Biden, in his first press conference as commander-in-chief, said the US was unlikely to withdraw all of its forces by May 1, the deadline stipulated in the agreement Washington struck with the Taliban in Doha last February, due to “tactical reasons.”
NEW EXCUSE TO DELAY FOREVER WAR
The Biden administration has repeatedly accused the Taliban of violating the Doha pact, which calls for the removal of all foreign forces in exchange for anti-terror assurances and engaging in talks with Kabul. US officials have cited the Taliban’s ties with al-Qaeda (a terrorist group outlawed in Russia), rising violence, and lack of progress in intra-Afghan negotiations as reasons for delaying the troop exodus.
The Biden administration also was reportedly mulling recommendations in a congressionally-mandated report by the Afghanistan Study Group (ASG), which said the US should stay in Afghanistan until the Taliban met all the conditions of the Doha pact, in addition to leaving behind an Afghan state that was independent, democratic, sovereign, and stable enough to defend itself and protect human rights.
“Shifting excuses usually means they are shopping to find one that is actually believable,” Independent Institute Center on Peace and Liberty Director Ivan Eland told Sputnik. “In reality, the US security bureaucracies are still in denial that they lost the war long ago, and that it’s best to cut their losses and get out.”
US leaders, Eland added, were scared that the Afghan government could not defend itself and would fall apart when the United States left, resulting in a Taliban takeover.
“But staying longer will not improve that situation. This outcome may be likely, but the United States promised to withdraw after the Afghan government and Taliban agreed to begin negotiating a post-war solution,” he said. “The United States is moving the goalposts.”
Eland said the Biden administration had also exaggerated the security ramifications of a Taliban takeover as one of their primary excuses for delaying.
“If they [Taliban] again harbor al-Qaeda or another anti-US group, the United States can come back and turn the Taliban government into rubble with air power,” he said.
Moreover, he added, the United States regularly criticizes other nations, including Russia, for violating agreements.
“Like [then-US President Donald] Trump did with the Iran nuclear deal and Biden is apparently willing to do with the May 1 Afghan withdrawal date – it’s OK when the United States fails to follow through with its international commitments,” he said.
Besides, Eland suggested, Biden could have played his hand more wisely by leaving and placing the blame on Trump for any implosion in Kabul.
“Biden should actually use the Trump agreement as an excuse to get out,” Eland said. “If the Afghan government collapses and the Taliban takes over the country, he can blame it on Trump’s agreement and say he had no choice but to honor it.”
TIME RAN OUT: US TROOPS NOW TARGETS
After striking the deal with the Taliban, the Trump administration reduced US troop levels in Afghanistan from 14,000 to 2,500 and closed five bases. The US was well ahead of schedule and on track to meeting the terms of the Doha pact before Biden took office. Trump even wanted to bring all troops home by Christmas, which caused a blowup with military leaders that ended with the sacking of top Pentagon officials.
The United States is now reportedly considering keeping the remaining 10,000 NATO troops, including 2,500 Americans, on the ground in Afghanistan until November, although Biden during his presser on Thursday said he cannot “picture” US forces being in Afghanistan next year.
Middle East Institute Director of Afghanistan and Pakistan Studies Professor Marvin Weinbaum explained Biden had shifted US strategy and proclaimed his new rationale for temporarily staying even longer in the Central Asian nation because the US presence was being reduced behind schedule.
“[It was announced] only because the time has now grown short and it will be next to impossible to have all US troops together with contractors out of the country by May 1,” Weinbaum told Sputnik. “Mostly it has to do with the removal or disposal of equipment.”
Biden’s latest delay, Weinbaum warned, could unleash new risks on US troops and private sector contractors given the Taliban have threatened to attack any forces on the ground after May 1.
“If the US announces that it will miss the deadline, the targeting of those troops could begin at any time,” he said.