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Andrzej Kohut  27 września 2021

Afghanistan, the Taliban and America’s failure. Is this Biden’s Vietnam? [VIDEO]

Andrzej Kohut  27 września 2021
przeczytanie zajmie 4 min

„July 8, 2021. Joe Biden reassured the American people and convinced them that in Afghanistan we will not see scenes of hasty evacuation of US troops as happened in Vietnam, which is guaranteed by the 300,000-strong Afghan army that will not allow the Taliban to quickly take over the country. A little over a month after Biden’s speech, we saw a picture twinned with that of the Vietnam War: a twin-prop Chinook landing on the roof of the American embassy in Kabul to evacuate the people inside. There is no doubt that this photo edited with Biden’s statement will now come up again and again in the public debate” – Andrzej Kohut, CAKJ international affairs expert, summarizes the U.S. presence in Afghanistan in the latest KluboTygodnik.

„About the necessity of withdrawal from Afghanistan the Americans have been convinced for some time. Successive American presidents like Barack Obama and Donald Trump had said so publicly. Therefore, it has become increasingly difficult to convince the American public why they should spend their tax money to fund this mission, especially since the last significant American success in Afghanistan was the elimination of Osama bin Laden in 2011, a decade ago. Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel laureate and psychologist who deals with cognitive errors, described a phenomenon he called the sunk cost problem. In simple terms, it’s a situation in which a certain project should be terminated because it is inevitably going to fail, but because we have put a lot of time and resources into it, it is very difficult to decide to terminate it. So we persist with the project longer than makes sense. This description captures the course of American involvement in Afghanistan extremely accurately,” the expert says.

„Successive presidents have delayed withdrawing from Afghanistan for a long time because making such a decision would entail explaining to the public what such a thing has been achieved during these 20 years of effort at the cost of huge money and the deaths of soldiers, and how today’s Afghanistan differs from the one before the American intervention. Unfortunately, the answer to these questions would not be pleasant, which is why no American president has been eager to provide it. Additionally, the American administration would have to take responsibility for the chaos that would undoubtedly ensue if U.S. troops withdrew from Afghanistan. All of this is happening right now and shows that the restraint of American presidents who did not want to hastily withdraw from Afghanistan had some justification. Of course, things accelerated in 2020 when the Trump administration signed an agreement with the Taliban, declaring that Americans would leave the country by May 1, 2021. The Biden administration seized on that agreement, only renegotiating the withdrawal deadline to the end of August, but nevertheless did not withdraw from the agreement itself,” Kohut comments.

„The United States, which is increasingly competing with China, cannot afford to waste resources and disperse troops to conflicts that are not as high a priority. Therefore, Biden had to end the American presence in Afghanistan as soon as possible. In that sense, this decision is understandable. Certainly the responsibility for the final outcome of this story does not fall entirely on Biden. It was not the Biden administration that started the conflict in Afghanistan, and it is not solely responsible for the American defeat in the region. But the assessment of the incumbent U.S. president changes dramatically when viewed through the lens of the final stage of the war. Here the biggest culprits are likely to be the analysts who provided the president and his entourage with information on the actual balance of power in Afghanistan. As recently as a few months ago, reports to President Biden included assurances that the government in Afghanistan and its military would be able to resist the Taliban for months, perhaps even years. As recently as early August, we could read in those same reports that the Afghan army would continue to hold out for several months. Nobody assumed that it would fall apart even before the American evacuation,” says the expert.

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Public task financed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland within the grant competition “Public Diplomacy 2021”. The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not reflect the views of the official positions of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland.