Joe Biden has emerged as the president-elect from what is being widely considered as the most divisive election in the history of the United States.
Negotiating the complex realities of a conflicted, bitter and divided US remains the biggest domestic challenge for the new administration. Beyond the homeland, foreign policy puzzles abound – with Afghanistan and the fate of the US forces in the region being the most puzzling.
It is an imprecise task to predict the Biden administration’s course of action in Afghanistan; things have to be taken into perspective from various lenses.
The first and the most important question here is, would the Biden administration review the US – Taliban agreement?
Speaking to The Correspondent, Pakistan’s former Ambassador to Afghanistan Asif Durrani believes that, “there would not be much of a difference in the policy of the new US government on Afghanistan.”
Ambassador Durrani says that “Biden supported Trump on his Afghanistan strategy and supports a withdrawal, that means when the US is satisfied that their interests are protected, it would well leave the country.”
“The United States has largely left Afghanistan, apart from maintaining its air operations; the Afghan government and Taliban talks would linger on with no “reduction in violence” (RIV) in sight. Biden admins can change the rhetoric but will persist on the policy with a bipartisan consensus,” the Ambassador added.
The Afghan government too expects a continuation of the Trump withdrawal plan, but would be amenable to a more structured withdrawal than the one Trump was planning.
The Taliban on the other hand have stressed the need for a withdrawal and have expressed hope that the new US admins would abide by the US – Taliban deal.
“Withdrawal of all US forces from Afghanistan, non-interference in our country and not allowing the use of Afghanistan to threaten America is in the interest of both our peoples and our nations”, the Taliban said in a statement, adding that, “we remain committed to the agreement on our part and view it as a powerful basis for solving the Afghan issue.”
While Joe Biden would not withdraw in haste, but that certainly doesn’t mean he linger in Afghanistan and spend billions more fighting a lost war. From the initiation of US led war on Terror till 2019, the United States has invested USD $ 882Bn out of which 16% i.e. USD $ 137 billion were in the area of reconstruction projects, USD$ 86.4Bn has gone on building up Afghan security forces, including the Afghan National Army and police force.
Despite this staggering price tag, Biden would strive for an arrangement where the US enjoys influence while making Taliban part of the process politically, for which Biden can stay for longer than Trump intended.
Ambassador Asif Durrani says, “America doesn’t have that much of an interest in Afghanistan anymore , drone attacks won’t be as numerous as before. With the security situation in Pakistan having improved and the FATA merger being done, the new US administration would continue to see Pakistan from the prism of Afghanistan. Mr Biden is a soft-spoken person but has the ability to say a lot in his soft tone”.
Looking at it, highly unlikely that Biden would change the decision to bring in more forces or money, if Biden takes a lenient view then he would possibly extend the US forces’ withdrawal deadline.