What is happening in the USA is definitely none of my business, but allow me to give my 2cents worth about President Joe Biden’s decision to terminate the 20-year US occupation and war in Afghanistan. He said: “I am the President of the United States of America, the buck stops with me.” That did not sound like a rhetorical statement; it was a courageous affirmation.
Pres. Biden and I are only a year apart in age, so I imagined myself in his shoes. At the end of his first term, he will be 82, but physically fit, with cognitive functions intact because he has worked all his life. None the worse for wear, as the saying goes. However, barely a hundred days had passed since his inauguration when he decided to withdraw from Afghanistan, shortly after suspending new oil and gas drilling permits and before the passage of crucial infrastructure bills. Those were momentous decisions made for the greater good. Lesser men avoid such politically suicidal acts.
By withdrawing from Afghanistan so abruptly, Pres. Biden is biting the bullet like no other American politician, least of all his predecessor. Biden has guts, “agallas”, it sounds more forceful in Spanish. He is swallowing all the bitter pills for the good of the United States of America and its citizens. He is loath to sending yet another generation of young Americans to their graves. No more new headstones in our cemeteries, he whispered. Deep inside him, Pres. Biden knows that today, no other elected American politician will have the courage to end a 20- year war that has cost billions of dollars and thousands of American and Afghan lives.
You can be sure that he was aware of the risks and expected the vitriolic broadsides. He inherited the Doha agreement which Donald Trump inked with the Taliban, deliberately excluding the US-sponsored government. Recent reports reveal that Trump stealthily dismantled the Special Immigrant Visas system his own administration had set up. Pres. Biden is restoring all that with added intelligence data, evacuation and resettlement plans. However, even the best of arrangements can take unexpected turns when these hit realities. For example, no one imagined that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani would be the first to abandon his country.
There is a lot of vociferous finger-pointing especially by Republican representatives like Jake Elizey (Texas), Mark Green (TN), Kevin McCarthy (House Minority Leader), Madison Cawthorn (NC), Brian Mast (Florida); there are many more. Former Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, gave a speech at the Ronald Reagan Library, breathing heavily as he spat vitriol, his insults punctuated with canine lip-smacking. Erstwhile Alaska governor, Sarah Palin, had her 15 minutes of fame at the expense of Pres. Biden, so did (Ret.) Colonels Doug McGregor, Richard Kemp and other veterans who gathered in front of Capitol Hill. “Pennsylvania Avenue (meaning the White House) lost Vietnam and Afghanistan, “they bellowed.
Most of the abovementioned politicians are presidential wannabees or senators and congressmen seeking reelection. How rapidly they pounced on the Afghanistan issue to cover up their egregious anti-voting laws and anti-mask mandates. Watch them demolish the bills on human infrastructure.
Pres. Biden’s bashers accuse him of ruining the credibility of the USA even if Afghanistan’s rapid downward spiral was evident before the Taliban flexed muscles. According to pundits, the Taliban of today are not like the ones in 1990; there is an unbreachable divide between the younger and older generations. The current leader has sent mixed messages: Women and girls will be ruled by the Sharia Law; while women are encouraged to join the work force, girls are forbidden to go to school.
Happily, there are young, educated Afghans who are staying behind to participate in the reconstruction of their country. They feel that the USA’s nation-building programs though well-intentioned were too centralized for Afghanistan which is made up of numerous tribes inhabiting the periphery. These younger Afghans used to propose other kinds of reforms and insisted that America listen and coordinate with the public; they were dismissed from government service. Afghanistan failed to develop a capacity to absorb all the aid that poured in, ironically enough, because there was poor coordination. Although it was not surprising that everything crumbled, there is profound dread that whatever was gained- especially women’s rights- will be lost.
I am certain that Pres. Biden agrees that the Taliban are making a grave mistake oppressing women and girls. Don’t they know that Vietnam would not have won the war against the USA without women power? Pres. Xi Jinping will probably tell them that Chairman Mao Zedong used to say, “Women hold up half the sky.”
Members of the Grand Old Party (GOP), especially Trump’s Republicans, should cease and desist. By taking on the thorny Afghanistan issue, Pres. Biden is doing them a monumental favor.