There is a neat symmetry to the end of American military involvement in Afghanistan on 11 September, 20 years to the day after the 9/11 attacks. That, though, is probably the only neat thing about this move, for the future of the country and the region remains messy indeed.
Endorsed by the UN and Nato at its inception, the war is now being ended, effectively though not formally, by the United States. The other coalition forces remaining – from Georgia, Germany and the UK among other nations – will no longer be viable without US air cover and other support. The action in Afghanistan remains, in fact, the only example of Nato’s Article 5 being invoked – that an attack on one is an attack on all. Unlike the “illegal” invasion of Iraq in 2003, there was never any question about the lawfulness, in principle, of the US-led intervention in Afghanistan. Indeed it was supported throughout the Islamic world. The UN Security Council resolution establishing the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) was passed unanimously by its members – China, France, Russia, the UK, the US, Bangladesh, Colombia, Ireland, Jamaica, Mali, Mauritius, Norway, Singapore, Tunisia and Ukraine. Without America, however, there is no coalition and no Isaf.
The logic of President Biden’s thinking is, in its own terms, inarguable: “We cannot continue the cycle of extending or expanding our military presence in Afghanistan hoping to create the ideal conditions for our withdrawal, expecting a different result.”
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