One month after the Afghanistan pullout, it is still unclear whether we witnessed the beginning of a series of military withdrawals—as part of Biden’s proclaimed end to the era of regime change wars—or if Afghanistan will remain a mere one-off.
While Washington’s foreign policy elite was up in arms against Biden’s withdrawal, a closer accounting of the political and strategic fallout reveals an opening for Biden to make good on his promise to disentangle the United States from the Forever Wars and begin a broader US withdrawal from the Middle East, starting with Iraq and Syria. The political cost of withdrawing from the Middle East has largely already been paid, and the geopolitical consequences have been strongly positive.
As the Taliban took over Afghanistan in August, the media, defense contractors, and Pentagon-friendly policy wonks produced a flood of criticism condemning the US withdrawal, deeming it a “humiliation” and a “national disgrace.” Pundits clamored for Biden to reverse his decision and redeploy troops.
Yet the American public was not swayed by Washington’s temper tantrums or the media’s attacks. The number of Americans who supported the withdrawal continued to grow, despite the horrible images from Kabul airport. A Pew poll showed that most Americans, although they disapproved of how the withdrawal was handled, believed that Biden made the right decision overall. Sixty-two percent think the biggest lesson from Afghanistan is that the United States should not be in the business of nation-building, and that it should send troops in harm’s way only if vital national interests are threatened.
Read the full article in The Nation.