President Joe Biden told the United Nations General Assembly that the United States is focusing on “relentless diplomacy” and closing an era of “relentless war” after it ended military operations in Afghanistan.
Mr Biden made the remarks as he has sought to tell the global stage that America has returned from its retreat from the international community during his predecessor Donald Trump’s presidency.
“Instead of continuing to fight the wars of the past, we are fixing our eyes on devoting our resources to the challenges that hold the keys to our collective future: ending this pandemic, addressing the climate crisis, managing the shifts in global power dynamics, shaping the rules of the world on vital issues like trade, cyber and emerging technologies, and facing the threat of terrorism as it ends today” the president said.
“We’ve ended 20 years of conflict in Afghanistan and as we close this period of relentless war, we’re opening a new era of relentless diplomacy,” he continued.
European allies have vocally or quietly criticised Mr Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. But Mr Biden was insistent that the United States and the world faces unique challenges that military conflict could not ameliorate.
“Many of our greatest concerns cannot be solved or even addressed through the force of arms,” he said. “Bombs and bullets cannot defend against Covid-19 or its future variants. To fight this pandemic, we need a collective act of science and political will.”
At the same time, Mr Biden articulated the criteria he would make for use of force when the United States and its allies are threatened, including against terrorism.
“But, the mission must be clear and achievable, undertaken with informed consent of the American people and whenever possible, in partnership with our allies,” he said.
Mr Biden added that he and the international community would continue to pursue the protection of human rights in Afghanistan even under the new Taliban regime, specifically highlighting the rights of women and girls.
“We all must advocate for the rights of women and girls to use their full talents to contribute economically, politically and socially and pursue their dreams free of violence and intimidation from central America, to the Middle East to Africa to Afghanistan,” he said.
But Afghanistan and military conflict were not the only aspects of Mr Biden’s speech. He frequently invoked the climate crisis and his words came after UN Secretary-General António Guterres specifically warned of a conflict between China and the United States.
“It would be far less predictable than the Cold War,” Mr Guterres said. But Mr Biden pushed back on the idea that such a feud would happen.
“We are not seeking a new Cold War, or a world divided into rigid blocs,” he said. “The US is ready to work with any nation, even if we have intense disagreements in other areas.”
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