Those who favour a conciliatory policy towards the Taliban, or in other words, a continuation of the policy adopted by President Bill Clinton (and his successor George W. Bush until 9/11) claim that this is needed to ensure that those US citizens still in Afghanistan be safely brought back. Countries such as Germany and the UK are offering a similar justification, with the British Chief of Defence Staff, General Nick Carter taking on the role of apologist for the Taliban. The reality is that such an approach only underlines the importance of hostages from NATO member-states. The relevance of hostages has been on display in the cloying desperation evident in so many meek pronouncements from Washington, London and other NATO capitals about the Taliban, combined with dollops of money beginning to flow for “humanitarian reasons”. Apart from the likelihood that several US and EU nationals will continue to languish in Afghanistan despite such craven diplomacy, this line of conciliation and appeasement of what is a collective dedicated to the “Khorasan project” will embolden several within the “government” in Afghanistan that has been created by President Biden into considering (and later carrying out) acts of terror on the scale of the events in Washington and New York on 11 September 2001, the anniversary of which may be marked by celebrations in Kabul involving those leaders who stood by Osama Bin Laden even after 9/11 was perpetrated. It is true that an intense effort is ongoing within the Taliban to persuade its youthful rank and file to abandon their desire to hold the collective’s first formal celebration in Kabul on 11 September. The two factions of the Taliban that are spearheading this effort are controlled by GHQ Rawalpindi, and that military is anxious lest their ambition of collecting tens of billions of dollars and euros be affected by the symbolism of this jamboree taking place on 11 September. The segment bought by the generosity of the PRC towards their ageing members is, on the other hand, very much in favour of the Taliban showing resolve and going ahead with the holding of the victory ceremonies on the 20th anniversary of 9/11 itself. Such an event would highlight to the world the defeat of the US and its NATO allies against a rag tag force of extremists that have nothing except the Sino-Pakistan alliance and the profits from the narcotics trade that has long been the mainstay of Taliban finances. These days, a Middle Eastern country that is earning billions of dollars each year from the sale of petroproducts to India, Japan and China has also been bankrolling elements within the Taliban, without any protest from the Biden administration. On the contrary, the capital of Qatar has become an obligatory port of call for military and political chieftains in NATO, precisely because of the closeness between Doha and both the Pakistan military as well as the Taliban. It may be assumed that Qatar may have joined with GHQ Rawalpindi in seeking to abort the Taliban effort at holding a grand victory parade on 11 September, and the hours ahead will show whether such a move has succeeded or not. The problem facing those factions of the Taliban that are arguing against humiliating the Biden administration by holding a victory parade on the anniversary of 9/11 is that the younger elements in the collective are eager to show that they have defeated the Great Satan, and may therefore be regarded as being on track to defeat “Crusader” forces in the deadly way sought by the Osama Bin Laden, who remains a hero to all the factions within the Taliban.

It is unlikely that the world will get a readout of what transpired during the 91 minutes of conversation between Presidents Xi and Biden, but given the pacifist nature of the Commander-in-Chief of the US military, it is likely that Biden would have adopted towards Xi the same conciliatory tone of unilateral concessions and compromise that has been on display ever since his swearing in on 20 January, save those who are his domestic political opponents. The conversation, apparently initiated by the White House, has had segments relayed to the Chinese media, each of which stress the “uncompromising and firm” manner in which the head of the most powerful authoritarian state (to use Biden’s description) dealt with his supplicant, the leader of what remains the most power democracy in the world. The electoral value of Joe Biden to his party was that he was perceived as the opposite in every way (including appearance) of Donald J. Trump. Since then, his apparent unwillingness to defend US and allied security interests may hand back the electoral advantage to the Republican Party. Even Trump appears almost considered when compared with his clearly impulsive successor. Neither the National Security Advisor nor the Defence Secretary is known to be happy with the manner and consequences of President Biden’s order to extinguish all US kinetic capabilities within Afghanistan by the anniversary of 9/11. It appears not to have struck Biden that this would be (correctly) seen as a US defeat on a magnitude not experienced even in Vietnam, and that too to a much lesser foe. The decades of Senator Biden cosying up to the Pakistan military and to the PRC seem not to have impacted their zeal to work towards humiliating him in Afghanistan, which only goes to once again show that unless the other side seeks compromise and conciliation as well, concessions and surrenders harm rather than promote national security. Its legendary hospitality and generosity have brought Qatar an invitation to the (9/11?) victory celebrations of the Taliban in Kabul, just as President R.T. Erdogan being the best friend of General Qamar Bajwa has ensured an invite from the Taliban. It is clear that Xi has persuaded Putin to ensure that Russia joins China in participating in the euphoria of victory over the Crusader forces that invaded Afghanistan in 2001, wisely from the air in conjunction with the boots on the ground provided by the now ignored Northern Alliance. As for Iran, the fact that the Taliban is viscerally anti-US (something that neither Secretary of State Antony Blinken nor his boss in the White House seems to have understood) is reason enough to attend. Although neither Russia nor Iran will be happy at the Taliban’s victory, given the security implications for both countries of any strengthening of the authority of the collective within Afghanistan. Despite Joe Biden being the individual most responsible for facilitating the return of the Taliban to Kabul since the group was driven out in 2001, the poor man was apparently not taken seriously enough to be invited. After all, those defeated do not figure at celebrations by the victors on their feat.

Rather than following in the path (albeit in an even more disorganised way) of Donald Trump, what President Biden needs to do is to act in the manner President George W. Bush did from 9/11 onwards until his attention once again got distracted towards Saddam Hussein within a few months into 2002. This was to ensure that the Northern Alliance get the air and logistical support needed to take on the Taliban, as it did in 2001 within months of the US entry into the conflict. Ultimately, even Biden (to the relief of the Yes Men around him) will understand the need for such a shift in policy. The problem is that every bit of delay in such a change only makes the suffering of the Afghan people at the hands of the Taliban worse, and requires the spending of more lives and treasure to beat back a scourge that was first destroyed and later revived by President George W. Bush as a consequence of the CIA and the Pentagon not accepting that Pakistan is the core not of the solution to the war on terror but (now together with its force-multiplier, the PRC) but the problem. Clearly, not being Trump is insufficient qualification for handling the responsibilities that come from being elected the President of the US.

MD