With the Taliban advancing across rural parts of Afghanistan, and criticism mounting over what some view as an overly hasty departure, the Biden administration is staring down a few short weeks to make a handful of critical decisions it’s put off until the last minute.
How will it safely evacuate thousands of Afghan interpreters and their families? What policy will it implement on drone strikes? How will it secure the largest civilian airport in Kabul? And, perhaps most importantly, what will it do with the hundreds of American contractors in the country who service and maintain complex, expensive military equipment the Afghans need to fight the Taliban? The answers to those questions will essentially determine the kind of relationship the US has with Afghanistan, and by extension the likely fate of the country for the foreseeable future.
President Joe Biden didn’t want to address any of these questions last Friday, growing visibly frustrated when asked by reporters. But he won’t be able to avoid the issue this week. Biden meets with his national security team Thursday ahead of a speech he’ll deliver in the afternoon in which he will detail his plans for US assistance to Afghanistan going forward. “The war appears to be forcing the administration to make some quick decisions,” said Seth Jones, director of the International Threat Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and author of In the Graveyard of Empires: America’s War in Afghanistan.