Jake Sullivan, the national security advisor to President Joe Biden has announced that the United States intends to review the Afghan peace deal.
The apparent purpose is to check whether the Taliban were living up to the pledges they made.
It is a loaded statement. —– Does the ‘review’ include the option to edit some parts of the Doha peace deal, most importantly the commitment to ensure complete withdrawal of foreign forces by May this year?
For the decision makers in the Biden administration, the answer to this question is enveloped in the answer to another question: Can Joe Biden afford to tinker with the Afghan peace deal?
The first thing to consider is Trump. He is out but not down. In fact, he is not even out yet; he is lurking right at the threshold.
Trump is a merchant of attractive and catchy soundbites.
He has successfully convinced a major chunk of his voters that the elections were flawed and his victory was stolen.
He has threatened that if the Republican outfit doesn’t fall in line with him, he will launch his own political party. He will call it MAGA (Make American Great Again) Party.
We have seen during the tenure of Obama that Trump keeps polishing his untruth until it starts shining like a reality. He single-handedly created the ‘birther’ movement, where a lot of people started believing that Obama was not born in the USA.
We can say with certainty that Trump will keep rocking the boat, making it very difficult for Biden to depart radically from the contents of the Afghan peace deal.
The second reason why Biden cannot afford to throw away the Afghan peace deal is the composition of the US military. According to several surveys over the recent years the US military has polarized along the political lines. According to some estimates, the combined percentage of ‘significantly more polarized’ and ‘somewhat more polarized’ troops is nearly 78%.
The same surveys have found that more troops tend to be Republican than Democrats. It is also a fact that about 64% of active duty troops cast their ballot compared to less than 50% of general population.
There is also the universal fact that an ordinary soldier wants to keep drawing all the pay, allowances and other benefits without going to war. This is quite natural.
The troops who are Republicans, who cast their vote, and who are grateful to Trump for winding up the wars, are a segment of population that Joe Biden cannot afford to anger, or just even ignore.
The third reason is financial.
For a country ravaged by the coronavirus, Joe Biden has announced a relief package of USD 1.9 trillion
Trump administration had already doled out a total of USD 3.5 trillion through several packages.
With the Biden package, the amount comes to USD 5.3 trillion.
The total GDP of USA in 2019 was USD 21.43 trillion.
The relief amount of USD 5.3 trillion is about 27.5% of the total GDP of the USA.
For comparison, the total military expenditures of USA in 2019 were 3.4% of GDP.
The fourth reason is the risk of multi-theater scenario.
There are a number of hotspots including Iraq, Syria, and the entire Gulf Street that have the potential to turn into a full-fledged war. The South China Sea and the heights of Himalayas are also heating up.
Joe Biden has picked a competent core team and it should be easy for them to see that while facing multi-theater prospects, it is just not advisable to play boldly with the Afghan peace deal.
The fifth reason is the Taliban who already control more than 60% of the territory of Afghanistan.
According to the Doha deal, the Taliban promised that they will not target any US or allied troops. They have kept their promise.
The deadline in the pace deal for the total withdrawal of the foreign troops is May 2021. Trump, just days before leaving the office, reduced the number of US troops in Afghanistan to about 2500.
The Taliban have said that if the Biden administration doesn’t abide by the withdrawal deadline, they will be free to target the US and other foreign forces, their bases, and their convoys.
It is also a fact that the recent spike in the violence in Afghanistan is clearly attributable to ISIS and other lawless elements. There is the convincing evidence that the Taliban have nothing to do with this senseless and targeted bloodshed.
The case has also been established that the ISIS is an artificially engineered entity. Its political and financial umbilical cord is traceable to certain players outside the borders of Afghanistan.
Perhaps some extension in the deadline for withdrawal of the troops can be negotiated. Perhaps some increase in the number of troops for a short time can be negotiated. There should be full and genuine explanation for doing so.
Beyond that, any attempt to warp the Afghan peace deal will be disastrous. /// nCa, 25 January 2021