24 July 2021 — Indian Punchline
US President Joe Biden (R) called Afghanistan President Ghani to assure US will defend his government, July 23, 2021
If only America’s presidents exercised the option to do muscle-flexing in the White House gym, the world would have been a calmer place.
This is the second time that a US president uses Afghanistan as punch bag. Thirteen years ago, Bill Clinton, chaffing under the steamy Monica Lewinsky affair, ordered the firing of some 100 cruise missiles right into Kandahar where late fugitive Taliban amir Mullah Omar was reportedly quartered. Clinton displayed that he could still put the Oval Office to use other than for venial sins.
The US air strikes against the Taliban, ordered by President Joe Biden hark back to Clinton — except that Biden is not battling with any sex scandal. Biden and Clinton are joined at the hips insofar as both have decided to bomb the daylight out of Afghanistan essentially to demonstrate the residual virility of their presidency.
But Clinton was smarter. He at least had an alibi — the al-Qaeda’s August 7, 1998 attacks that destroyed the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. Yet, although Clinton directed a campaign of increasing scope and lethality against bin Laden’s network that carried through his final days in office, the lines Clinton he opted not to cross were also illuminating — namely, expansion of the reach of the war to the Taliban regime as such.
Biden’s decision falls in an entirely different category. It’s an act of motiveless malignity against the Afghan people. The laboured 337-word White House statement issued on Friday following a phone call to Ashraf Ghani — by far the longest ever White House readout of a phone call by Biden — shows the strain to explain why he is doing this to a nation which means no harm.
The point is, the Deep State convinced Biden that his presidential legacy will be in jeopardy if the roof crashes down on Ghani . The scandalous midnight exit of valiant American soldiers out of Bagram air base has already become folklore in the Central Asian steppes and the Muslim Middle East.
The White House readout claims that ‘the Taliban’s current offensive is in direct contradiction to the movement’s claim to support a negotiated settlement of the conflict.’ Presumably, this refers to the Doha pact.
Biden is afraid to even mention the Doha pact of February 2020, because it is the US which first violated the written understanding reached with the Taliban when it failed to deliver on a transitional arrangement in Kabul, release of thousands of Taliban prisoners still in Ghani’s prisons and lifting of UN sanctions — and by arbitrarily shifting the deadline for the total withdrawal of the US and NATO troops by 134 days.
Today, nobody knows now whether there is anymore a withdrawal date with the plans afoot for a NATO country’s military to stay back at Kabul airport so that the US intelligence and security personnel could continue to operate in Afghanistan. Any surprises that the Taliban retaliated?
Biden is indulging in sophistry. The justification for prolonging the war is simply not there. The US admits that the Taliban no longer poses a threat to the US’ homeland security. Equally, the US accepts that the Taliban is a legitimate Afghan entity that deserves to be brought into Afghan mainstream politics.
Plainly put, Biden is joining an intra-Afghan power struggle as a partisan for reasons of his own. Ghani’s crisply worded readout to the point underscored that the US-Afghan relationship is ‘evolving’ and is now riveted on Biden’s backing for Afghan government forces. It adds that Biden and Ghani stressed ‘continued diplomatic and economic support for the Afghan government, security forces and the importance of preserving the gains of the last twenty years.’
Quintessentially, Biden is going to be the guarantor of Ghani’s political future. After this phone call, Ghani has no reason whatsoever to share power — not only with the Taliban but even with Abdullah Abdullah! Does Biden realise what he has done? Ghani is proclaiming to all Afghans that Biden has his back! Why should he make way for a transitional arrangement when Biden backs him to the hilt?
The White House readout flags Biden’s anguish over ‘the Afghan people, including women, girls, and minorities.’ But it is the US air strikes that posed the greatest danger to Afghan civilian life and this has been repeatedly emphasised by none other than former president Hamid Karzai. The US moved heaven and earth to stop the International Criminal Court from investigating the horrific war crimes in Afghanistan.
Washington’s best hope was that Pakistan would arm-twist the Taliban to accept a continued military and intelligence presence below the radar. But Taliban point blank refuses to countenance any form of foreign military presence on Afghan soil. The crux of the matter is that the US never really intended to vacate its occupation of Afghanistan. read more
Biden is doing what the Deep State expects from him, to whom he owes so much for unseating Donald Trump. Biden has been assured that American lives won’t be put in jeopardy in this ‘over-the-horizon’ war under the command of a four-star general sitting in Florida, with no ‘boots on the ground’.
Indeed, this won’t be a conventional war or even hybrid war. It is half way to an algorithm war. Pentagon will test new weapon systems and hone its skills for that ultimate war that will be fought with AI.
Biden, an experienced politician, calculates that Moscow won’t challenge him. He made this doubly sure by allowing the strategic dialogue with Russia to commence next week, something which Putin had been demanding. read more
Biden is also engaging China on the diplomatic track with the Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman landing in China for talks next week that might set the stage for a meeting between Biden and President Xi Jinping. read more
Importantly, Biden expects India to feel grateful that the Taliban will be bled white. The Afghan army chief is slated to visit Delhi on Monday. Biden and Ghani surely welcome greater Indian involvement in their war, where angels fear to tread.
This war cannot have a happy ending. How searing will be its tragic outcome is the question. This can lead to military coups, political assassination, civil war. The US may be the only beneficiary out of the chaos that hinders China’s Belt & Road projects.