Two United States announcements this week have raised some interesting points and are worthy of further examination. The first was an announcement by United States president Joe Biden on Wednesday, 13 April that United States troops would be withdrawn from Afghanistan by the 11th of September this year. The choice of that date is significant because it marks the 20th anniversary of the attacks in New York City and Washington DC that provided the United States with the ostensible reason for the attack on Afghanistan.
We now know of course that an attack on Afghanistan had been discussed at the first George Bush cabinet meeting in January of that year. At that time, they lacked a credible excuse to do so, but that was later rectified by blaming the “9/11” attacks of Osama bin Laden, and demanding his surrendering to the United States government for trial. The Taliban government, then in control in Kabul, not unreasonably asked for evidence of bin Laden’s complicity in the attacks of 9/11. This was a request the Americans refused to meet. Instead, as is well known, they later staged an attack on bin Laden’s home in Pakistan, killed him on the spot, and then buried his body at sea. There remain many very troubling questions about that whole episode.
The whole story stank from end to end, but that was the official version and all United States actions over the past 20 years have been predicated on the 9/11 myth.
Biden’s acknowledgement has not been met with universal acclaim within American circles. Several politicians have openly questioned the wisdom of a withdrawal. What they expect to achieve that the United States has been spectacularly unsuccessful in achieving over the past 20 years has not been made clear.
The invasion of Afghanistan had nothing to do with 9/11. Instead, its geographical location in relation to a number of countries of strategic importance to the United States has always been more important. Not the least of those countries is China. The Biden administration has shown no less antagonism to China than that of his predecessor Trump, and the United States withdrawal is not going to alter that fact at all.
The United States president claims that all “troops” would be withdrawn from Afghanistan left unanswered a number of questions. Not the least of these is the future role of the CIA which has a prominent role in Afghanistan and is known to be opposed to a United States withdrawal. Quite separate from any alleged security concerns they may have, the biggest topic left unanswered by the Biden announcement, and indeed all of the political commentary that has followed, is, what will happen to the CIA’s central role in the production and distribution of the countries heroin, the supply of which accounts for a substantial part of the CIA off the books funding.
Also unanswered by Biden’s announcement is the fate of the thousands of private soldiers that form an essential component of the United States military effort. It seems that their role will be to prop up the corrupt and incompetent Afghan government. Such an effort is doomed to failure as there seems no conceivable way that government can survive a Taliban takeover.
Also left uncovered is the fate of the education of the female population. During the last period the Taliban were in control, female education was a massive black hole. While a return to that experience seems unlikely, the role of female students remains an open question. For all the Americans boasting about female education, they have failed to acknowledge that the status of women students in Afghanistan was in fact best during the 1980s when the Soviet Union controlled the government.
The second significant development this past week was the United States government changing his mind on the deployment of two warships to the Black Sea. This was undoubtably a response to Russian President Putin’s blank warning the US naval presence in any area so vital to Russian security would not be tolerated.
The reason for the intended United States presence was to put pressure on Russia over developments in Ukraine. The Americans have pledged loyalty to the corrupt and incompetent Ukrainian government, despite the evidence at a lack of trustworthiness. The Ukrainian government has consistently failed to fulfil its obligations under the Minsk agreement, settled in 2014 to deal with the vexed question of the status of the two breakaway parts of Ukraine, known collectively as the Donbass region. They have been under sustained military pressure from the Ukrainian government ever since declaring their independence. Without the support of the Russian government, they may well have collapsed as separate entities. For the predominantly Russian speaking population, a defeat by Ukraine would be unthinkable.
Again, one of the interesting and surprising developments of the past week has been the softening of the stance taken by Ukrainian president Zelensky. He may finally be willing to enter into talks with the two breakaway regions, although frankly it is difficult to see a reconciliation of their two fundamentally different positions.
Ukraine is also wasting its time demanding the return of Crimea to its fold. That boat has long sailed, as shown in the overwhelming public support given in Crimea’s vote in March 2014 to seek reunification with Russia. The history of Crimea is significantly absent from western accounts of the return to Russia by Crimea, with “return” being the operative word.
What is significant in recent days is a visible hardening of the Russian position. Biden’s request to Putin for a summit in a third country, probably Austria, has been met with a cool reception. Putin will not have forgotten Biden’s gratuitous insult of Putin, agreeing with his interviewer that Putin was a “killer”.
It was a spectacularly inept response and will be neither forgotten nor forgiven in the short-term. It should also be observed that the adjective “killer” is more appropriately applied to successive United States government since 1945 who have been responsible for the deaths of literally millions of people.
Biden flip-flopping on his view of a meeting with Putin is but one sign of a United States president whose grasp of the jobs requirements show worrying signs of uncertainty and instability. It raises the obvious question of his being actually in control of his own government and its policies. His capitulation on the question of United States warships in the Black Sea, coming as it did hot on the heels of a repeated pledge to Ukraine raises serious doubts about the trustworthiness of United States foreign policy.
The world can ill afford the uncertainties of a United States president not in control of his own government.
James O’Neill, an Australian-based former Barrister at Law, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.