On the list of crises confronting the Biden administration, Afghanistan has steep competition. Amid a pandemic, a superpower contest with China, and a scourge of domestic extremism, policy makers could be forgiven for missing the days when Washington’s biggest worry in the world was an insurgency in Central Asia.
Yet as much as the White House might prefer to set aside Afghanistan, the conflict there cannot wait. Thanks to the flawed deal the Trump administration struck with the Taliban a year ago, the Biden team inherits a ticking time bomb it must quickly disarm. Specifically, the Taliban agreement committed Washington to withdraw all its forces from Afghanistan by the end of April—less than 100 days from now. In exchange, the Taliban pledged not to allow terror groups to use Afghan territory to threaten the U.S. or its allies.
The Biden team inherits a ticking time bomb it must quickly disarm.
The U.S. has upheld its end of the bargain to the point that only 2,500 American troops remain in Afghanistan.
The Taliban, on the other hand, has made no sign of splitting with al Qaeda. The U.S. Treasury Department warned last month that al Qaeda influence in Afghanistan is actually increasing under Taliban protection. Taliban officials now speak of hosting al Qaeda members as “refugees”—the same rationale they used to shelter the group before 9/11.
Far from facilitating a wider peace in Afghanistan, the U.S. drawdown has coincided with a surge in violence shocking even by Taliban standards. Insurgents have launched a Khmer Rouge-style campaign of targeted murders against journalists, judges, human-rights activists and civil servants in Kabul. The strategy behind this killing spree is clear: to exterminate, as a class, the modern-minded Afghan professionals who oppose the Taliban’s extremist agenda.
Read the full article from the Wall Street Journal.
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