Biden continues here the Obama Administration’s narrow focus on al-Qaeda as the enemy. Not even the Taliban are included anymore, despite their obvious involvement in 9/11 plotting and more. And the ideology that al-Qaeda and the Taliban, as well as many other jihad groups around the globe? Off the table. Cannot and must not be examined.
“Joe Biden On Iraq, Iran, China and the Taliban,” by Leslie H. Gelb for Newsweek via The Daily Beast, December 19 (thanks to Wimpy):
On Thursday, Dec. 15, Vice President Joe Biden sat down in his sunlit White House office adjoining the Rose Garden to do what he loves best””talk about foreign policy””with Leslie H. Gelb of Newsweek/The Daily Beast. What follows are excerpts of their exclusive review of the year”s hotspots….
NEWSWEEK: What are our vital interests in continuing to fight a major war in Afghanistan?
BIDEN: We were in Afghanistan for two reasons. One is to deal with, curtail, begin to dismantle, and eventually eliminate al Qaeda. Not only from being able to come back into Afghanistan and control Afghanistan but from the region””to decimate al Qaeda.
NEWSWEEK: Almost an impossible goal to achieve.
BIDEN: No””to fundamentally alter their capacity to do damage to American allies and vital U.S. interests, to fundamentally alter that. We have done that. It doesn”t mean they”re not capable.
NEWSWEEK: It means we”ve done it for the time being, but depending upon who comes to power in Afghanistan in the future, they can come back. I know you don”t favor staying there ad infinitum to prevent that.
BIDEN: I would argue they are not able to come back. I would argue that there has been serious damage done to their infrastructure in a way that the coherence of this thing called al Qaeda and their ability to metastasize has been severely damaged.
NEWSWEEK: So we no longer have to stay in Afghanistan to fight for it?
BIDEN: No, let me finish. That is not fully achieved, it is close. The second reason for us to be in Afghanistan was to make sure that a country with tens of millions of people and nuclear weapons called Pakistan did not somehow begin to disintegrate or fall apart. That is a hell of a lot tougher job….
Great job on that score, Joe. Pakistan is a paragon of anti-jihad Islamic moderation, now, ain’t it?
NEWSWEEK: I know you don”t believe we can reshape Afghanistan and make it into a caramelized democracy.
BIDEN: Look, look, Les, let”s posit that your statement is that it”s clear that Pakistan could live with an Afghanistan controlled by the Taliban.
NEWSWEEK: They did.
BIDEN: We could not. We could not because they harbored, sheltered, and supported an outfit that created a real threat to the United States.
NEWSWEEK: And we told them if you stop harboring al Qaeda, we”ll live with you too.
BIDEN: Yes, but they didn”t.
NEWSWEEK: And we can make that deal now.
BIDEN: We didn”t. That is part of what the reconciliation process is about right now. We are not just deciding that all we are doing is supporting a government and building up their military capability. We”re engaged in a reconciliation process. Whether it will work or not is another question. But we are in a position where if Afghanistan ceased and desisted from being a haven for people who do damage and have as a target the United States of America and their allies, that”s good enough. That”s good enough. We”re not there yet.
Look, the Taliban per se is not our enemy. That”s critical. There is not a single statement that the president has ever made in any of our policy assertions that the Taliban is our enemy because it threatens U.S. interests. If, in fact, the Taliban is able to collapse the existing government, which is cooperating with us in keeping the bad guys from being able to do damage to us, then that becomes a problem for us. So there”s a dual track here:
One, continue to keep the pressure on al Qaeda and continue to diminish them. Two, put the government in a position where they can be strong enough that they can negotiate with and not be overthrown by the Taliban. And at the same time try to get the Taliban to move in the direction to see to it that they, through reconciliation, commit not to be engaged with al Qaeda or any other organization that they would harbor to do damage to us and our allies….