If there is one thing Democrat candidate Joe Biden and President Donald Trump do agree on, it is the pull out of troops from Afghanistan. In an interview, Biden made it clear: America bears “zero responsibility’’ if the Taliban come back to power.
“Zero responsibility. The responsibility I have is to protect America’s national interest and not put our women and men in harm’s way… that’s what I’d do as president,’’ Biden said in an interview to CBS when asked whether America bore responsibility if the Taliban came back to power.
His comments make it clear that Afghanistan policy will not change if there was a new president in the White House come November. “I hope this is a wake-up call to any Afghan leaders slow-rolling the #AfghanPeaceProcess in the hopes that the US might change direction and aim to stay in Afghanistan (if) Joe Biden wins in November,’’ tweeted Laurel Miller, Director of Asia Programme at the Crisis Group.
Biden’s comments come a day after the Pentagon confirmed that the US had withdrawn from five bases. “US forces in Afghanistan remain in the mid-8,000s and five bases formerly occupied by US forces have been transferred to our Afghan partners,” Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman has been quoted as saying in a statement.
The Trump administration has continued to abide by the “agreement for bringing peace to Afghanistan’’ it signed with the Taliban in February, despite there being no reduction in violence. A report by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) claims there were 2,953 civilian casualties in five months. There were 1,213 killed and 1,740 wounded. America has continued to pull out troops ignoring a red flag—of the Taliban continuing to have links with Al Qaeda—as the recent Defense Department report claimed. This was the only condition placed by Trump on the Taliban. It seems unlikely that Biden will do much else to stop the process.
Biden’s views on Afghanistan are not new. In 2010, Biden had lost his temper with Richard Holbrooke, the then special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, when the latter raised the point of making the rights of Afghan women a priority. Biden “erupted’’ Holbrooke, with the exchange recorded in the book Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and the End of the American Century. “I am not sending my boy back there to risk his life on behalf of women’s rights, it just won’t work, that’s not what they’re there for,’’ he is quoted as saying. Biden wanted to get out of Afghanistan.
A decade later, Biden has not changed his views. He, like Trump, is clear that the war has to end. Addressing a debate in New Hampshire earlier this year, Biden made it clear that he was “totally against the whole nation-building in Afghanistan’’. A comment that certainly did not go down well in the country. “There’s no possibility to unite that country, no possibility at all of making it a whole country,” Biden said, referring to Afghanistan as quoted by news reports.