Biden gave away a key bargaining lever
When the United States abandons Afghanistan this spring or in the summer, the Taliban will triumph. Kabul will soon fall. And women will again be subjugated to patriarchal fervor. Jeff Jacoby was quite right to warn that “the Taliban will grow stronger and bolder” (“Biden’s blunder in Afghanistan,” Opinion, April 21). The ongoing civil conflict will escalate, and any kind of representative democracy will fall before the fundamentalist diktats of the Taliban. This is President Biden’s first and most alarming blunder, even given its undoubted domestic political benefits.
But what Jacoby’s critique omits is that Biden threw away our bargaining leverage. He pulled out of Afghanistan without so much as attempting to exact any kind of promises from the Taliban, thereby violating a fundamental rule of how best to strike a bargain. He might have agreed to pull out of Afghanistan only if its leaders promised to leave schools for girls alone or promised to negotiate transparently with the government of Afghanistan. But those possibilities were discarded.
Just as Senator Joe McCarthy berated Democrats for letting China fall to Communism, so some unprincipled Republican demagogue will now be able to fault another Democratic administration for “losing Afghanistan.”
As much as we do need to get out of Afghanistan, the Taliban need not have been handed the keys to the kingdom without some kind of tougher agreement. What do we say to the women who will surely be marginalized and endangered?
Robert I. Rotberg
The writer is president emeritus of the World Peace Foundation and founding director of the Harvard Kennedy School Program on Intrastate Conflict.
Lay the blame on Trump, not the current president
The planned withdrawal from Afghanistan is not “Biden’s blunder.”
The historical record actually shows it was President Trump and his administration that inked the peace agreement with the Taliban, with an exit date of May 1 (coincidentally, this was reported on Page A5 of the same edition, under the headline “General cites downsides of Afghan exit”). President Biden is the one who postponed the withdrawal for several months to have a more organized process, coordinated with other nations that are part of the coalition.