IN THE EMBARRAS – Already in difficulty by the meteoric takeover of the Taliban, the American president seems overwhelmed by an Afghan crisis which continues to worsen, evidenced by the attack perpetrated Thursday in Kabul. Its popularity is in free fall and the conservative camp is rubbing its hands.
A few hours after the Kabul airport attack, Jo Biden appeared moved when he spoke for the first time. Thirteen American servicemen had just been killed, making this the deadliest attack on Pentagon troops since 2011 in Afghanistan. If the American president has resorted to martial accents to promise retaliation to the perpetrators of the attack, he has failed to dispel the impression of paralysis he has given off since the start of the crisis – and that his opponents willingly exploit.
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Afghanistan in the hands of the Taliban
“We will not forgive and we will not forget, we will hunt you down and we will make you pay.” The tone is resolved, when the tenant of the White House slowly reads this message on his teleprompter to the Islamic State, which then just claimed responsibility for the attack. Visibly troubled by evoking the fate of American victims, the Head of State however generally left the impression of helpless annoyance.
This was the case when he was questioned sharply by a reporter for the conservative Fox News channel, as seen in the photo at the top of this article. Because the consensual Joe Biden, the man of bipartite agreements, has in fact aligned himself with a decision taken by his hated predecessor, Donald Trump, what he did not fail to recall last night.
I had only one alternative: to send thousands of other soldiers to Afghanistan, to fight a war that we had already won.
It was the previous American president who negotiated the withdrawal from Afghanistan with the Taliban, an agreement that Joe Biden did not question. As well as underlined it last night, according to him, there was “only one alternative: to send thousands of other soldiers to Afghanistan, to fight a war that we had already won, with regard to its initial objective”. The Democrat therefore chose to validate the withdrawal concluded by the Republican, with the success that we now know. Anyone who would expect Donald Trump to keep a low profile on this issue must have been inattentive for the past four years: after challenging his election, the real estate mogul claims, since the fall of Kabul on August 15, the resignation of Joe Biden.
Overheated last night by the new American setback on the ground, Donald Trump did a little too much, renaming the local branch of the Islamic State “ISIS-X” (instead of the acronym “ISIS-K”). As often, he refused to admit his mistake, claiming that this mysterious “ISIS-X” would be a next branch of the Islamist organization, “even worse”. Not enough to prevent twenty Republican parliamentarians have followed in their former president’s footsteps, also calling for the resignation of Joe Biden or his replacement.
Lots of Republicans are content for the moment to demand that Joe Biden return to his agenda, which provides for a final departure on August 31 – which he refused to do last night. It is for them to allow the “counter attack” which many right-wing voices are calling for – but which would mean the return of the Americans to the region. This is undoubtedly that the source of the helpless grin of rage that Joe Biden affected last night: between the American withdrawal and the Afghan debacle on the ground, how can we henceforth envisage a targeted military operation?
Especially since the Islamic State in Khorasan, as the group that claimed responsibility for the attack is called, does not have a known territorial base that could allow a bombardment: it concerns a few thousand dispersed men. throughout the country, since their defeat against the American-Afghan coalition in 2019. This is why Joe Biden promised to fight back “at the chosen time”, ruling out from the outset the hypothesis of rapid reprisals.
On the left, questions but few criticisms
In the Democratic camp, while there are hushed criticisms of how the withdrawal was handled, no one is considering questioning it. Pennsylvania MP Susan Wild sums up the presidential camp’s position pretty well: “It is clear to me (…) that we could not continue to endanger our soldiers for an unsuccessful war. But at the same time, it seems blatant that the evacuation process was very poorly managed”.
Opinion, on the other hand, seems to judge Joe Biden more harshly. 60% of Americans now disapprove its management of the Afghan crisis, according to polls carried out before the Kabul attack. The very heavy toll suffered by the American military in this one risks having a profound impact on the population, for whom Afghanistan was not a priority issue. The erosion of Joe Biden’s popularity has so far been attributed mainly to the interminable Covid crisis.
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Parliamentarians from the right wing of the Republican Party rushed into the breach opened in public opinion last night. Thus the Republican deputy Elise Stefanik hammered that “Joe Biden has blood on his hands”, and that he “is unfit to be commander-in-chief “. For the moment the American president grits his teeth and sticks to the line he has set himself since the start of the withdrawal, and which he formulated one last time yesterday by closing his press conference: “It is time to end a twenty years war.”
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