As U.S. forces beat a hasty retreat from Afghanistan, surrendering the country to an uncertain future under the Taliban, U.S. President Joe Biden and his top national security advisors preached the importance of diplomacy over military intervention. “We will lead with our diplomacy, our international influence, and our humanitarian aid,” Biden said last month.
But Washington is running headlong into the limitations of diplomacy in a country with no Western boots or even a U.S. ambassador on the ground and an array of regional powers, principally China and Russia, seeking to undercut whatever remaining leverage the United States might exercise over the country’s new rulers. In recent weeks at the United Nations, China, Russia, and Pakistan have openly challenged three central pillars of a potential U.S. diplomatic pressure effort: the threat of international sanctions, the withholding of diplomatic recognition, and the restriction of reconstruction aid for the Taliban as they try to form a new government.
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