Biden still has a chance to save his American legacy and credibility – but it won’t be easy

Biden still has a chance to save his American legacy and credibility - but it won't be easy

It’s hard to find a silver liner in the darkness of Afghanistan’s devastation, but here’s one for President Joe Biden: The crisis has been going on long enough for his presidency, for him to take corrective action , without mercy on mistakes and lessons learned. on the basis of an assessment.

These actions should focus on three areas: restoring allied confidence in US leadership, developing a solid counterterrorism strategy based on Afghanistan’s altered reality, and engaging regional actors to shape and disrupt Taliban behavior. To unite

None of this will be easy.

Yet all of this is urgent, with the historic ambitions of the Biden administration and American credibility at stake, in what the president has rightly described as an inflection point in a systemic competition between authoritarianism and democracy.

If the administration adopts these three action plans, President Biden can more effectively return to his ‘build back better’ narrative of suppressing COVID-19 and focusing on economic stimulus and infrastructure plans that , since then, have promoted employment and growth.

With 13 U.S. servicemen and at least 169 others lost their lives Thursday in suicide bombings, Biden’s daring presidential ambitions must not die in the Hindu Kush. A U.S. military drone strike on Friday would have wiped out the two ISIS-K planners behind the attack, and evacuations are continuing until Tuesday’s deadline.

Still, it’s never too early to start planning after August 15, the deadliest day for the U.S. military since 2011. Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump have been able to survive their presidencies without an international crisis like this. magnitude. President George W. Bush was not so lucky and he would be the first to tell President Biden that Afghanistan would define his administration. However, Biden could still do a lot to shape this story.

Cynical domestic political voices in Washington – and they exist in considerable numbers – argue that Americans will quickly forget Afghanistan. By this logic, everything would be fine once the Americans were out of harm’s way. Others are already scrambling to take advantage of this crisis to replace the Biden-Harris ticket for 2024 or to establish itself as a more decisive and capable option among Republicans.

Cynicism can win some election races, but it is never a recipe for greatness. There is still greatness in the grip of the United States and President Biden himself. It will take a new level of focus and execution on the international common cause.

First, President Biden must match his “America is Back” rhetoric on joining allies with deeper and more meaningful consultations on the issues that matter most to American partners.

While the issues of terrorism and Afghanistan may come to mind first, our allies in Asia and Europe would very likely want us to consult them more closely on the Biden administration’s approach to China, which is something for almost everyone. more worrying. . In short, they want them to be treated as strategic partners touted by the Biden administration.

“America’s alliances are our greatest asset,” Biden said in his first State Department foreign policy speech in February. “And leading diplomatically means being alongside our key allies and partners again. “

However, these colleagues complain that awareness does not match rhetoric. European ambassadors said their governments were not consulted before President Biden’s speech in April regarding the withdrawal from Afghanistan or its timing and execution, although their civilians and soldiers are also at risk.

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger writes in The Economist this week that “the fundamental concern is how America ended up withdrawing from a decision taken without much warning or consultation with the allies or the people most directly involved in 20 years of sacrifice ”. left.”

Seven months after the start of the Biden administration, US officials still tell their allies that US policy in China is “under review.” The Biden administration is expected to bring its closest allies to the tent of these talks, even as they weave their way through the US interagency process. While he does, he urgently needs to tackle the trade tensions left behind by the Trump administration.

Second, the Biden administration should begin extensive counterterrorism consultations with its closest allies. In an interview with CBS, Secretary of State Tony Blinken correctly argued that terrorist cells have metastasized since the 2001 attacks and are now scattered around the world.

As a result, America’s “beyond the horizon” ability to deal with terrorists has been dramatically improved and will now also be applied to Afghanistan. But that ignores how the terrorist disintegration came about in large part because Terrorist Inc. lost its refuge in Afghanistan.

None of the countries where terrorists currently operate have a potentially hospitable regime for them, as the Taliban is likely to have. Terrorists still consider 9/11 a success in attacking American infidels, and the Taliban bring Afghanistan to nearly 20.e The anniversary of this attack would potentially stimulate recruitment and provide a new home for training and the common cause.

It is also one of the reasons why jihadists around the world distributed candy and fireworks on the occasion of the Taliban victory.

Finally, the Biden administration, in particular, must work with regional partners to monitor, shape and discipline Taliban activity.

Its current desire for international recognition, its immediate economic problems, and the need for skilled partners give international actors an advantage over the Taliban who can assist in the development of Afghanistan.

The key here will be whether countries like China and Russia, once they digest their satisfaction with this American setback, will find any advantage in working with the United States to ensure that the Taliban does not create an extremist state with a terrorist tendency. .

Expect tough discussions on this, as China in turn wants the United States to tone down its claims that Beijing, in Secretary Blinken’s words, is engaged in “genocide” against its Uyghur Muslim minority.

The concept of a “silver liner” that seeks the most positive in the most negative situations is said to have been first expressed in a poem by John Milton from 1634. The Biden administration must now seize on this idea. outdated and use it. to his advantage. It is time to turn things around with allies and partners in Afghanistan and beyond.

Frederic kempe He is President and CEO of the Atlantic Council.

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