Defending his decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, US President Joe Biden has accused the Afghan government and military of allowing the Taliban to overrun the war-torn country. This unconvincing self-justification cannot conceal the all-pervading sense of betrayal: America simply left Afghanistan in the lurch. By his own admission, the US spent more than $1 trillion in two decades, ostensibly to train and equip the 300,000-strong Afghan military force. So, why did this ‘incredibly well-equipped’ force capitulate so tamely to the Taliban? And did a portion of the funds end up in the hands of the militant outfit itself, thanks to a well-oiled extortion racket run right under the nose of the US forces? America owes an explanation to its own people — and the world — on these counts.
Biden’s contention that the US had ‘planned for every contingency’ does not hold water in the light of the chaotic and messy pullout, even as he has deigned to concede that the Taliban takeover happened ‘more quickly’ than anticipated. The disturbing developments have also brought under scrutiny the US-Taliban agreement of February 2020, signed during Donald Trump’s presidency with Pakistan’s support. The Doha deal, which was expected to pave the way for intra-Afghan negotiations on a political settlement and a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire, went horribly wrong. This self-defeating pact and Biden’s April announcement of a withdrawal were together the straw that broke the camel’s back.
America’s unwillingness to take Pakistan to task for helping the Taliban run riot has been plainly visible all along. During his visit to New Delhi last month, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken failed to address India’s concerns about the ‘malign influences’ that were plaguing Afghanistan. The least that the US can do now is to stop passing the buck and accept responsibility for the disastrous turn of events. Biden has asserted that he won’t repeat the mistakes the US has made in the past. Going by the course of American history, that’s easier said than done.