CHINA / DIPLOMACY
US seeks support to clean up mess in Afghanistan by deadline, shirks responsibility
Published: Aug 30, 2021 10:33 PM
US President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden watch as troops move a case containing the remains of Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kareem M. Nikoui, 20, of Norco, California, during a casualty return on Sunday, at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. According to the Department of Defense, Nikoui died in an attack at Afghanistan's Kabul airport, along with 12 other US service members. Photo: AP

US President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden watch as troops move a case containing the remains of Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kareem M. Nikoui, 20, of Norco, California, during a casualty return on Sunday, at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. According to the Department of Defense, Nikoui died in an attack at Afghanistan's Kabul airport, along with 12 other US service members. Photo: AP



 Taliban fighters investigate a damaged car after multiple rockets were fired in Kabul on Monday. Rockets flew across the Afghan capital on Monday as the US raced to complete its withdrawal from Afghanistan, with the evacuation of civilians all but over and terror attack fears high. Photo: AFP

Taliban fighters investigate a damaged car after multiple rockets were fired in Kabul on Monday. Rockets flew across the Afghan capital on Monday as the US raced to complete its withdrawal from Afghanistan, with the evacuation of civilians all but over and terror attack fears high. Photo: AFP



 Now that the 24-hour countdown to the August 31 deadline for the US and its allies to leave Afghanistan has started, the US is seeking support from any forces that can help with the evacuation effort, including China and the UN Security Council, analysts said, noting that no matter whether the US can complete the evacuation work before the deadline, the current debacle resulting from the irresponsible withdrawal is too obvious to hide, not to mention the bloodshed and disgrace brought by the deaths of civilians in the recent drone attack. 

On Monday, the UN Security Council is expected to hold a meeting on the situation in Afghanistan, where one topic for discussion will be the Taliban's reassurances that foreign nationals and eligible Afghans will be allowed to leave after the August 31 deadline. 

The US will also host a virtual meeting on the same day with "key partners" including Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, Turkey, Qatar, the European Union and NATO, to discuss their next steps in Afghanistan, the US State Department said on Sunday. 

Analysts said that as the final hour approaches and facing domestic and international pressure, the US has become more anxious and is seeking any possible support to help with the evacuation from Afghanistan. 

The Biden administration has faced constant problems in Afghanistan - from the Taliban's unexpectedly swift takeover of Kabul to the disorganized withdrawal and terror attacks and other potential threats. The embattled Biden administration is using bilateral and multilateral mechanisms to help with the evacuation work, said Liu Zhongmin, a professor at the Middle East Studies Institute of the Shanghai International Studies University.

By talking to regional countries, including China and Russia, and seeking UN support, the US is trying to shift its responsibilities in dealing with the messy situation in Afghanistan, Liu told the Global Times. 

On Thursday, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi had a phone conversation at the request of the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the Afghan situation. During the call, Wang said that "facts have proved again that the Afghanistan war never achieved the goal of eliminating terrorist forces in Afghanistan. The hasty withdrawal of the US and NATO troops is likely to offer an opportunity to various terrorist groups in Afghanistan to resurge." 

In the final hours before the August 31 deadline for the US military's exit, roughly 350 American citizens who want to leave remain in Afghanistan, the US State Department said on Saturday. 

Liu noted that the US may announce the success of the evacuation whether it has really achieved it or not. "Both the US and the Afghan Taliban need the symbolic completion of the evacuation - the US to reduce its humiliation and the Taliban to start the next phase of the political process domestically," Liu said.

Echoing Liu's view, Cao Wei, a research fellow from the Institute for Central Asian Studies at Lanzhou University, said that the evacuation of the majority of Americans may be accomplished around August 31, and those Afghans who helped the US may be abandoned. 

France, Britain and Germany are working on a United Nations proposal aimed at establishing a safe zone in Kabul to allow safe passage for people trying to leave Afghanistan, French President Emmanuel Macron said on Sunday, Reuters reported. 

However, Zhu Yongbiao, director of the Center for Afghanistan Studies in Lanzhou University, told the Global Times that the US may fail in accomplishing the evacuation work by August 31, and it is possible that it may make compromises with the Taliban to ensure a delay of a few days. 

Shame added to debacle

Regardless of whether the evacuation work ends on August 31, the US' debacle in Afghanistan and its lack of credibility shown by its withdrawal are too obvious to hide, not to mention the increasing number of Afghan civilian casualties from the Thursday blasts at Kabul airport or in the drone strike in the capital on Sunday, analysts said. 

The US has taken actions in the face of increasing threats of terror attacks targeting Kabul airport after the deadly blasts on Thursday. At least ten people have been killed as of the press time, including a number of children, during the US drone strike on a vehicle on Sunday, which the US said was carrying explosives and suicide bombers who were set to target Kabul airport imminently, media reported. 

Images and reports from the ground appear to show that some of the Afghan civilians killed may have been shot by US Marines at Kabul Airport following the deadly blasts. Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said at a press conference on Saturday that they cannot confirm this and are not in a position to deny it. 

Large numbers of Afghan civilian casualties have become commonplace from recent incidents and in recent years, all US military actions targeting terrorists have caused a large number of innocent civilian deaths, Zhu said, noting that this is the reason for some Afghan people's hatred toward the US. 

The civilian casualties from the drone attack are not surprising, since the US was in such a rush to take revenge on someone to save face, appease Americans domestically, and to show the world and its allies that it is still capable of managing the situation by shortening the procedure to spot the target, confirm it and make a strike, Zhu noted. 

Experts reached by the Global Times said that given the unusually high number of casualties in the Kabul terror attacks, it is possible that US troops shot civilians due to panic or overreaction. The US may launch an investigation into the case and after a series of hearings, may end it quietly without any party facing consequences, as once it is confirmed that the US killed more people than the terrorists, it would mean that the US is committing state terrorism.  

After the exit of US and Western troops, terrorist attacks and activities may rebound and expand quickly in a short time in Afghanistan and the country may suffer from economic difficulties due to the suspension of international assistance and the Taliban's lack of governance experience, Zhu said, noting that the future of Afghanistan relies on how the Taliban deal with ties with the US and whether it can fulfill its promises to the international community. 

Liu said that the US may keep its influence over the Taliban by using Afghanistan's gold reserves in the US, imposing other sanctions and adopting the stick and carrot approach with the Taliban. It may also use multilateral mechanisms to maintain contacts with regional countries and the Taliban. 


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