These days Kabul is rife with the talks and expectations that the United States policy to South Asia, particularly Afghanistan, will change with the election of Joe Biden as President. Senior Afghan officials have already called on the incoming administration to review the agreement with the Taliban and reassess the peace process.
Biden has been closely involved in the Afghanistan war and Pakistan for decades through his services in the Government and Senate. Last September, Biden said that he supported keeping a small counterterrorism force in Afghanistan to ensure that neither al-Qaeda nor the Islamic State is in a position to launch attacks on the US from Afghanistan.
However, given the U.S. policy tradition, Biden may tweak but not change the whole policy, in the wake of the February US-Taliban agreement and the ongoing peace talks between the Afghan Government and the Taliban.
One thing is crystal clear that Biden will not withdraw by giving power to the Taliban, as the insurgent group has not changed its course; they have increased violence and according to reports, they haven’t severed ties with the al-Qaeda. The February US-Taliban agreement has been violated at least in three key areas 1) Reduction in Violence, 2) Ties with Al-Qaeda, and 3) Stalled intra-Afghan negotiations.
Though the Taliban have asked Biden to stick firmly to the deal negotiated under the Trump’s administration. But, given the fact that the Taliban have fallen short of meeting the articles of the agreement and the perception that keeping a limited counterterrorism force might serve U.S. interests well, there might be a reevaluation of the U.S.-Taliban peace agreement.
US Generals on the ground understand the geo-strategic and geo-political importance of Afghanistan. Stability in Afghanistan could mean regional stability, thus affecting global security. However, the Generals’ opinion has been ignored as the war in Afghanistan has become the longest in US history and patience for staying in Afghanistan is fading among American citizens.
Perhaps the best policy for the Biden administration will be to involve the Generals more, who have been on the ground and know Afghanistan better. Moreover, the Afghan Government should be given more voice in the process. Giving in to the Taliban among Afghans means, giving more voice and influence to Pakistan.
Taking into account Biden’s history with Pakistan, he might engage Pakistan in the peace process and meanwhile demand practical actions on respecting human rights and press freedom. As the Chairman of the U.S. Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, Biden had pushed for the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Act of 2009, which provided $1.5 billion in development aid to Pakistan.
Though Khalilzad endorsed President Trump in the 2017 election, he enjoys bipartisan support and that is why he might continue with his mission.
Hope within the Afghan Government is that Joe Biden will give fewer concessions to the Taliban compared to what his predecessor Donald Trump offered. Influenced by his political and election objectives, Trump wanted the troops out of Afghanistan soon. Now, that the elections are over, there will be a ground-based approach that serves the interests of the country. Moreover, it is evident that a few counterterrorism troops will be left in the country to avoid future crises. So far, it looked like the Taliban had a sway over the process but now the Afghan Government might get leverage by having more say in the process. With Joe Biden’s election, Afghan officials are already flexing their muscles for a tougher approach compared to the past.
Mr. Ahmad Shah Katawazai has served as a Diplomat at Afghan Embassy Washington D.C. Mr. Katawazai has a master’s degree in Global Security Studies from Johns Hopkins University and a master’s in International Legal Studies from American University.
Views expressed in this article are of the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect that of OrbandNews’.