An Open Letter To President Biden
We must re-focus on the shared strategic goals of the United States and Afghanistan
Dear Mr. President:
Like many communities in America, Afghan-Americans mobilized in an unprecedented manner in support of your election because we believe in your ability to reestablish moral and strategic leadership here at home and across the globe, especially in the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan.
We write to you understanding that there is no shortage of matters which demand your urgent attention as you come into office. Re-imagining the longstanding and valuable U.S.-Afghanistan relationship, we believe, should be a top national security and strategic priority for you and your administration.
The gains made over the past two decades have been substantial. We now find ourselves on the verge of an elusive peace that could lay a foundation on which Afghanistan’s promising young population can build. We are deeply concerned, however, that the ground beneath their feet is rapidly shifting.
The Trump administration’s desire to conduct a haphazard eleventh-hour withdrawal from Afghanistan undoubtedly jeopardizes the significant security, political and societal gains made by the Afghan people over the last two decades. Perhaps more saliently, it imperils America’s security and undermines its strategic standing in the region. Neither set of outcomes can be allowed if we are to be the leading force for good that Secretary of State Nominee Blinken has stated he believes we can be. Nor can they be allowed if we are to have the strength and resolve paired with humanity and empathy that incoming National Security Advisor Sullivan has identified as a hallmark of your forthcoming national security strategy.
If the recent terrorist attacks across Afghanistan and the increasing operational capacity of the Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K) and Al-Qaeda are to be seen as indicators, the prospect of a rushed American exit has already emboldened our adversaries, many of whom are positioning themselves to fill the anticipated vacuum a U.S. withdrawal would create. Suffice it to say, we have already seen what they have to offer as an alternative and it is as extreme and threatening to U.S. and Afghan interests today as it was two decades ago when we first sought to confront it.
To be sure, any action that leaves Afghanistan vulnerable to the carnage and demoralizing loss of life we continue to witness would constitute an acceptance of failure. As would any action that trades political and social gains for a peace accord with a partner who has yet to demonstrate the capacity for peace. As would any other action that signals to the rest of the world that the reconstruction of Afghanistan and a meaningful and sustained investment in the Afghan people no longer carry the strategic, moral, and humanitarian value they once did. Any of these eventualities would mark a disastrous and undesirable end to an already challenging journey for both the American and Afghan people.
What is required of the United States now is a willingness to partner with and empower the democratically-elected government of Afghanistan. Our plans for peace must be as meticulously crafted as our plans for war. This partnership requires diplomatic and civilian efforts as well as ongoing engagement to train, advise and assist the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces. None of this will happen if we continue on the path of capitulation being laid out by the outgoing administration.
Although their experiences of these decades of war have been worlds apart, most Afghans and Americans appear to agree that the need for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan is more urgent and more mutual now than ever before. In fact, few issues bring people from across the American political spectrum together like the need for the United States to re-think and re-focus its engagement in Afghanistan. How that engagement evolves, what we end up having accomplished in the final analysis, and what the Afghan people are left to build on will differ drastically depending on the course you choose and those whom you consult in formulating your approach.
Whether it was the Cold War or the horrific attacks of 9/11 on our soil, Afghans have stood in lockstep with Americans in confronting our greatest adversaries and threats. We owe it to our Afghan partners, but more importantly to all who have made the ultimate sacrifice, to work toward a secure Afghanistan and a sustainable peace.
We are committed to lending our voices, our support, and the expertise within the Afghan-American community to you and to the difficult and important task that lies ahead.
Human Rights Advocate
Sher Jan Ahmadzai
Director Center for Afghanistan Studies
University of Nebraska at Omaha
Joseph M. Azam
Attorney/Global Anti-corruption &
UCLA Burkle Center for International Relations
Afghan Diaspora Researcher/Advocate
Afghan-American Foundation (AAF)