Two decades after the US invaded Afghanistan, Joe Biden has proposed a deal between the Afghan government and the Taliban ahead of a review of the US troops withdrawal plan.
Biden’s Secretary of State Antony Blinken “proposed to the Afghan government that they enter an interim power-sharing agreement with the Taliban”, CNN reports.
The plan, which the broadcaster adds would also see “Afghanistan's neighbors, including Iran, take on a greater role”, comes ahead of a planned end to US boots on the ground on 1 May, a deadline set by the Trump administration.
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“We are considering the full withdrawal of our forces by May 1, as we consider other options… The United States has not ruled out any option,” Blinken wrote in a letter to President Ashraf Ghani, adding that without US military assistance he was “concerned that the Taliban could make rapid territorial gains”.
Writing in The Times, longtime war correspondent Anthony Loyd writes that the power-sharing suggestion shows Biden “wants out” of American’s forever war, but “does not want to do it as clumsily as Trump”.
The message being sent by Biden is that Ghani either agrees “to share power with the Taliban against whom we have both fought since 2001” or “we will pull out the last of our 2,500 troops and leave you to deal with the Taliban alone”, Loyd adds.
Biden last week carried out his first aggressive foray into the Middle East with airstrikes targeting Iran-backed militias in Syria. The Pentagon said the strike destroyed “multiple facilities” and followed attacks against US and coalition personnel in Iraq. But the president has “signalled that he wants to make the Middle East less of a priority”, The Economist says.
“A larger cost-benefit analysis taking place in the White House”, the paper adds, with the US still housing “thousands of soldiers spread across Arab countries” but with a growing track record of “interventions producing dismal results”.
The “unanswered question” in Washington regarding the Afghanistan power-sharing deal is whether “the Taliban want to share power at all and what are the consequences if it turns out that they don’t”, Loyd says. And this tension gets to the crux of Biden’s wider policy in the region, namely “how to lighten America’s burden in the Middle East while still protecting its vital interests there”, The Economist adds.
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