The images of chaos at the airport in Kabul will be replayed “repeatedly” in the upcoming elections and, although the episode represents a defeat for the government of Joe Biden, it is too early to calculate the impact of the events. The assessment is Dan Morain, a journalist with more than four decades of experience covering US politics.
“The images that came from Afghanistan and are coming from Afghanistan over the weekend, and today, are ugly and are something the administration must respond to. But that said, the Biden administration is reflecting the nation’s attitude, which is that twenty years is a long time, we spent a lot of money and a lot of people died in Afghanistan,” says Morain. “It’s time to move on.”
Recent opinion polls show a shift in the American population’s view of the longest war in its history. A Gallup survey indicates that in 2002, with just a few months of conflict, 93% of the US population did not consider the war a mistake, while 6% considered it a mistake. These numbers were slowly approaching until, for the first time in 2014, most respondents said they considered the conflict a mistake. The most recent poll in the time series was released in July 2021: 47% of respondents said the US military involvement in Afghanistan was a mistake, while 46% were not.
The data, however, are different when separated by the party orientation of the interviewees. Since 2001, Republicans have always been more supportive of the conflict than Democrats and Independents. In the most recent survey, 56 percent of Democrats called the war a mistake, the same as 54 percent of independents. Among Republicans, 29% classified the episode as a mistake.
Still, former Republican President Donald Trump also advocated withdrawing troops from Afghanistan. Trump is responsible for the agreement between the White House and the Taliban that called for the exit of the US military invasion of the country in 2021. Biden only postponed the date by a few months.
However, that didn’t stop Trump from attacking Biden for the episode. “It’s a big deal that we’re coming out, but no one has ever dealt with a withdrawal worse than Joe Biden,” Trump told Fox News. “This is the greatest embarrassment, I believe, in our country’s history.”
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Other Republican leaders have also put Biden in the crosshairs. Senator Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader, said Afghanistan’s departure was a “shameful failure of the American leadership” and that “terrorists and major competitors like China are watching the embarrassment of a downed superpower.”
Morain evaluates in an interview with Brazil in fact that Republicans should exploit the episode because of the power of images of retreating troops and also because Biden is used to using his experience in international politics as an electoral banner.
“Republicans will go after Biden. We will definitely see images of what happened over the weekend over and over again in the upcoming elections. That’s pretty clear. That said, we’re going to need to figure out what’s going to happen in six months, and in twelve months and in the next few years. He won’t face re-election until 2024, so it’s a long way to go”, analyzes the veteran journalist.
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While Morain reckons it is “too early” to write the political obituary of Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, he believes the plight of Afghan women under the Taliban could have repercussions in the United States.
“If six months from now there are reports that girls and women are being terribly oppressed in Afghanistan, and I wouldn’t be shocked if that happens, that’s not going to go down well in America. This will affect Harris. She has already talked about women’s rights, the importance of women’s rights and human rights. If women are oppressed as they were when the Taliban ruled in the 1990s, that will be a problem,” Morain anticipates.
Author of the book “Kamala Harris: The Life of the First Woman Vice President of the United States”, released in Brazil by publisher Agir, the journalist believes that Harris will certainly be charged for the episode in a way that his predecessor in office, Mike Pence, did not would be.
Morain also foresees another element that will move policy in the United States: the future of refugees and immigrants from Afghanistan. The theme may gain special relevance, as Harris is the daughter of immigrants. The White House authorized the expenditure of up to $500 million (about R$2.67 billion) for its Refugee and Migrant Assistance Fund, with the aim of meeting the “urgent and unexpected needs” of Afghanistan, it said the The country will receive 22,000 immigrants from the country it invaded in 2001 and has now left.
Edition: Arturo Hartmann