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Op-ed: Biden nonetheless has an opportunity to salvage his legacy and U.S. credibility — nevertheless it will not be simple

It is onerous to discover a silver lining within the darkness of the Afghanistan squall however right here is one for President Joe Biden: This disaster occurred early sufficient in his presidency for him to take corrective motion, primarily based on a ruthless evaluation of errors made and classes realized.

These actions ought to concentrate on three areas: restoring allied confidence in U.S. management, laying out a strong counterterrorism technique primarily based on Afghanistan’s modified actuality, and rallying regional actors to form and constrain Taliban habits.

None of that will likely be simple.

But all of it is urgently mandatory with the Biden administration’s historic ambitions and U.S. credibility at stake throughout a time the president has appropriately described as an inflection level in a systemic contest between authoritarianism and democracy.

If the administration takes these three programs of motion, President Biden can extra successfully return to his “Construct Again Higher” narrative of quelling Covid-19 and specializing in financial stimulus and infrastructure plans which have already fueled U.S. jobs and development.   

Biden’s audacious presidential ambitions needn’t die within the Hindu Kush, alongside the 13 American service members and not less than 169 others who misplaced their lives to suicide bombers on Thursday. A U.S. army drone strike Friday was mentioned to have taken out two ISIS-Ok planners behind that assault, and evacuations proceed in opposition to the Tuesday withdrawal deadline.

But it is not too early to start out planning the aftermath to eight/15, the deadliest day for the U.S. army since 2011. Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump have been in a position to escape their presidencies with out a global disaster of this dimension. President George W. Bush wasn’t as fortunate, and he can be the primary to inform President Biden that Afghanistan will seemingly outline his administration. Biden can nonetheless do a lot to form that story, nonetheless.

Cynical home political voices in Washington — and so they exist in appreciable numbers — argue that People will overlook Afghanistan shortly. All will likely be nicely as soon as People are out of hurt’s approach, in keeping with this argument. Others are already jockeying to leverage this disaster to interchange the Biden-Harris ticket for 2024 or, amongst Republicans, to place themselves as a extra decisive and competent different.

Cynicism can win some electoral races, however it’s by no means a recipe for greatness. America and President Biden himself nonetheless have greatness inside their grasp. It’ll take a brand new stage of focus and execution on worldwide widespread causes.

First, President Biden should match his “America is again” rhetoric about embracing allies with a lot deeper and extra significant session on points which might be most important to U.S. companions. 

Although the problems of counterterrorism and Afghanistan could come first to thoughts, our allies each in Asia and Europe most of all need us to seek the advice of extra intently with them on the Biden administration’s method to China, which is of far higher concern to virtually all of them. In brief, they need to be handled just like the strategic companions the Biden administration has informed them they’re.  

“America’s alliances are our best asset,” Biden mentioned in his first overseas coverage speech this February on the State Division. “And main with diplomacy means standing shoulder-to-shoulder with our allies and key companions but once more.”

These allies, nonetheless, complain that the outreach hasn’t matched the rhetoric. European ambassadors say their governments weren’t consulted forward President Biden’s April speech on withdrawal from Afghanistan or concerning its timing and execution, although their residents and troops have been additionally in danger.

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger writes within the Economist this week that of basic concern “is how America discovered itself moved to withdraw in a call taken with out a lot warning or session with allies or the individuals most immediately concerned in 20 years of sacrifice.”

Seven months into the Biden administration, U.S. officers nonetheless inform their allies that America’s China coverage is “beneath assessment.” The Biden administration ought to carry its closest allies into the tent of those discussions, at the same time as they work their approach by way of the U.S. interagency course of. Whereas it does so, it must also urgently deal with lingering commerce tensions left over from the Trump administration.

Second, the Biden administration ought to start intensive counterterrorism consultations with its closest allies. In an interview with CBS, Secretary of State Tony Blinken rightly argued that terrorist cells have metastasized for the reason that 2001 assaults and are actually scattered everywhere in the world.

Thus, the vastly improved U.S. “over-the-horizon” capability to tackle terrorists is the brand new regular, and now will likely be utilized to Afghanistan as nicely.  However that overlooks how the terrorist scattering took place in no small half as a result of Terrorist Inc misplaced its secure haven in Afghanistan.

 In not one of the international locations the place terrorists now function do they take pleasure in a regime as doubtlessly hospitable to them because the Taliban is prone to be.  Terrorists nonetheless take into account 9/11 to have been a hit in hanging the American infidels, and the Taliban taking of Afghanistan close to the 20th anniversary of that assault will seemingly present a lift to recruitment and a brand new house for coaching and customary trigger.

There’s a motive jihadists all over the world reacted to the Taliban’s victory by handing out sweets and setting off fireworks.

Lastly, the Biden administration must work particularly with regional companions to watch, form and self-discipline Taliban exercise.

Worldwide actors have leverage on the Taliban as a consequence of its present need for worldwide recognition, its pressing financial issues, and its want for expert companions who might help with Afghanistan’s growth.

The important thing right here will likely be whether or not international locations like China and Russia, as soon as they’ve digested their satisfaction with this American setback, will see a profit in working with the U.S. to make sure the Taliban would not create an extremist state with terrorist leanings. 

Count on robust conversations over that, as China will need the U.S. in return to ease up on its expenses that Beijing is, within the phrases of Secretary Blinken, engaged in “genocide” in opposition to its Uyghur Muslim minority.

The idea of a “silver lining,” searching for essentially the most constructive points in essentially the most adverse conditions, is believed to have been first expressed in a John Milton poem of 1634. The Biden administration must seize upon this previous thought now and use its advantage of time to right course with allies and companions over Afghanistan and past. 

Frederick Kempe is the President and Chief Govt Officer of the Atlantic Council.

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