U.S. President’s Dilemma: U.S. Forces Will Leave or Remain in Afghanistan, Iraq and Yemen
Afghanistan along with Iraq are the main dilemmas but also tests of credibility for foreign policy and the pre-election promises made by current US President Joe Biden to end the “endless wars” involving the US – mainly in Afghanistan and Iraq which in 2021 will close twenty and eighteen years respectively (promises made by then Democratic presidential candidate Joseph Biden in an article in the journal Foreign Affairs spring March/April 2020 entitled “Why America Must Lead Again-Rescuing US Foreign Policy After Trump”).
Under the peace agreement signed by former US President Donald Trump with the Taliban called the “Agreement to Bring Peace to Afghanistan” – without the then US government considering the Afghan government – the last 2500 American soldiers, along with the approximately 7000 other NATO soldiers in Afghanistan, will have to leave Afghanistan by May 1, 2021.
Under this Agreement, the Taliban in return will not offer refuge to al Qaeda members or other terrorist organizations and will not harm the Americans and their allies.
But developments so far in Afghanistan are creating a headache for President Joe Biden’s leaders. Why would the Taliban stick to what the U.S. agreed to if they win all the battles and are ready to enter the country’s major cities like Kandahar and Kunduz.
The Afghan government is no longer counted by the Taliban and they do not agree to continue talks with them. Given these events, when the American and NATO troops leave, we will most likely see scenes such as the withdrawals from Beirut on the ships (Lebanon, 1984) and Saigon (Vietnam, 1975) when the Vietcong and the last Americans invaded as winners.
All NATO countries are putting intense pressure on the Joe Biden administration to extend their presence in Afghanistan. In such a case, however, the Taliban will find the reason not to keep their promises to the US in the future, while both NATO and the US will have to increase their presence in Afghanistan as they will now be subjected to the wrath and attacks of the victorious Taliban.
In addition, in the event of the withdrawal of Western troops from Afghanistan, all progress made in the country on human rights, education, gender equality and democracy will disappear immediately.
In Iraq, and in northern Iraq in particular, 2500 American soldiers remain, where Northern Iraq is the territory of the Iraqi Kurds. But that did not stop US enemies from hitting the American base inside Arbil – the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan – the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan.
Iran is the first suspect in the attack, while Iran has denied involvement in the attack. Was it an attack to speed up Joe Biden’s decisions and return the US to the international agreement on the Iraqi nuclear program or was the purpose of the attack to work the other way around, where the US President should have second thoughts following Israel’s policy against Iran?
Time will tell, too, as Iran sets a final deadline of 23 February to lift the sanctions imposed on it. In any case, Iran has decided to drastically restrict international controls on its nuclear facilities.
The fact that the US President has kept Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his anti-Iran ally Prince Mohammed bin Salman on ice does not necessarily indicate President Joe Biden’s final intentions.
The American government might want to show Iran that making the right decisions takes time and it would not be right for Iran to set extortionate deadlines because Iran’s expected benefits may not materialise.
Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, is under pressure from Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels. If the Houthis enter the city of Marib then Iran will have achieved a noticeably big target by cornering Saudi Arabia.
So, if the US President consents to Iran’s deadline for lifting US sanctions against the country, without first offering more consideration for reducing its influence in the Middle East and supporting peace in the region with all states without threatening, then the US will look as if it is being “dragged” behind Iran’s decisions that will now emerge as the ruler of the region.
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