The heart-rending images from Afghanistan have led many observers to blame the Biden administration for an embarrassing defeat. This is wrong and unfair. By ending American involvement in Afghanistan, President Joe Biden has put the U.S. and its key allies in a better position to address the more important challenges they will face in the future.
America’s failure in Afghanistan was bipartisan, and a searing indictment of the foreign policy establishment. The George W Bush administration bears the greatest responsibility for the disaster, which Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump both recognised was a lost cause. Neither mustered the courage to end it, however, leaving Biden to acknowledge reality and take the heat.
After al-Qaeda struck on September 11 2001, the Bush administration and its European allies succumbed to hubris and gradually took on an impossible mission: transforming Afghanistan into a western-style democracy. Unfortunately, foreign invasions do not produce democracy in poor and deeply divided societies. The U.S. and European militaries were seen as occupiers, reconstruction efforts foundered, and years spent training never produced a cohesive and resilient Afghan fighting force.
The temporary “surge” that Obama ordered in 2009 could not rescue a deteriorating situation, which was not helped by the arbitrary deadline set by the White House, nor by U.S. reluctance to engage in serious diplomacy until it was too late. Pakistan’s covert support for the Taliban was an insurmountable problem, too.
Read the full article in the Financial Times.