Biden aims for the impossible in Afghanistan

A cursory examination of the emerging US policy on Afghanistan would probably conclude that the strategy to end a two decade-old, mostly fruitless, military intervention is ill-conceived and mistimed. That view has substantial support even among the ranks of Washington’s dovish cohort, which is not keen on striking a deal with the Taliban given its track record as a fundamentalist, autocratic Islamist movement with no inclinations toward democracy, human rights or personal liberty — along with its support for Al-Qaeda and ties to 9/11.

However, the overall aim of the Biden plan is to attempt the unprecedented, ending the US-led coalition’s Afghanistan mission by trying to establish a democratic, stable and self-sustaining long-term settlement. Its current iteration involves reviving a stalled peace process using a multilateral approach via forceful regional diplomacy, as well as pressuring the Kabul government led by President Ashraf Ghani to support the process and the Taliban to de-escalate its attacks.

Attempts at establishing a centralized, democratic-leaning government have failed just as much as the Taliban’s unfettered illiberalism. By making a play for a decentralized government, the White House is investing diplomatic and political capital in a shaky power-sharing arrangement between two entities that deny each other’s legitimacy.

An abrupt departure risks new instability and conflict, endangering the strategic or security interests of neighboring states such as Pakistan, India and even China. Afghanistan’s proximity to the Uighur Muslims of Xinjiang, for example, makes for an exceedingly wary Beijing, concerned that Taliban supremacy will give aid or comfort to the separatist ideals of Uighur militants