Pakistan to US: Abandoning Afghanistan risks humanitarian crisis
Pakistan repeats call for the world not to ‘abandon’ Afghanistan following the Taliban’s takeover of that country.
Afghans walk through a security barrier as they enter Pakistan through a common border crossing point in Chaman, Pakistan [File: AP Photo]
Pakistan has repeated its call for the world not to “abandon” Afghanistan following the Taliban’s takeover of
that country, as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets his Pakistani counterpart on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.
The meeting in New York on Thursday was the highest level face-to-face meeting between the Biden administration and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government since the US president took office earlier this year.
In brief remarks to the news media ahead of the meeting, Blinken said the talks would focus on “Afghanistan and the importance of our countries working together and going forward on Afghanistan”.
The US Secretary of State also said he appreciated Pakistan’s aid in facilitating the departure of US and other citizens from Afghanistan following the Taliban’s seizure of Kabul in mid-August.
Pakistani authorities say they have so far facilitated evacuations for more than 13,000 people from Afghanistan, mostly foreign citizens or personnel associated with international organisations.
A Pakistani foreign ministry statement on the meeting, released early on Friday, said Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had spoken to Blinken about “a new political reality” in Afghanistan since the Taliban assumed control.
“While the Taliban should be held to their commitments, the international community has a moral obligation to help the Afghan people deal with the growing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan,” the statement said.
“[Qureshi] hoped the world would not repeat the mistake of disengaging with Afghanistan.”
That message has been consistent with the Pakistani government’s position on Afghanistan in recent weeks, calling for immediate international engagement and aid in order to stave off a potential humanitarian crisis.
With the Taliban is still getting governance and infrastructure up and running again, and as poverty, hunger and economic paralysis spiral, analysts say the possibility of a collapse of Afghan government structures is possible without international help.
International donors pledged more than $1.1bn at a conference on Afghanistan last week to address those concerns but the Taliban has also called for an estimated $10bn in Afghan central bank assets held in foreign countries to be released so that they can be used to address these issues.
That call has been supported by several other countries, including Pakistan and Uzbekistan.
On Thursday, the Pakistani foreign minister also reiterated Islamabad’s call for “an inclusive political settlement in
Earlier this month, the Taliban announced the formation of an interim government headed by interim Prime Minister Mohammad Hasan Akhund that included several hardline commanders, with any women or ethnic minorities in positions of power.
However on Tuesday, Taliban expanded that cabinet to include a number of new deputy ministers, some of whom belong to ethnic minorities. Women remain unrepresented in the Taliban’s ruling structure.
On Thursday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry said the move to expand the cabinet was a “positive” development.
“We have taken note of the expansion in the interim cabinet with representation of different ethnic and political groups,” said Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Asim Iftikhar at a weekly news briefing in the capital, Islamabad.
“This is a positive direction, and we hope they continue to take steps leading to lasting stability in the country.”
Asad Hashim is Al Jazeera’s digital correspondent in Pakistan. He tweets @AsadHashim.
Washington (CNN) — President Joe Biden on Tuesday offered a vigorous defense of his decision to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan, defending the chaotic withdrawal from Kabul a day after the last American military planes left the country, marking the conclusion of the US’ longest war nearly 20 years after it began.
“My fellow Americans, the war in Afghanistan is now over,” Biden said at the White House, marking a symbolic moment he said was long overdue. “I’m the fourth president who has faced the issue of whether and when
to end this war. When I was running for president, I made a commitment to the American people that I would end this war. Today I’ve honored that commitment.”
Biden was defending a decision that has drawn scrutiny for its chaotic execution that undercut his promise to restore competence to government. His speech, delivered in an impassioned tone that revealed flashes of anger toward his critics, offered no apology for how the war ended.
Instead, Biden said the real choice in Afghanistan was “between leaving and escalating,” framing his call to withdraw troops as the only option aside from surging more forces to the country. He suggested that the humbling end to the war, with the Taliban back in control after trillions of dollars and thousands of lives were spent ousting them, was the fault of decisions made long ago.
“I was not going to extend this forever war, and I was not extending a forever exit,” he said, casting aside arguments that leaving some troops in the country was a feasible way to keep the Taliban at bay.
Eager to move on, Biden hopes his speech amounts to something of the last word after a two-and-a-half week scramble to leave the country. Questions linger over potentially hundreds of Americans who were not evacuated and many more Afghan allies who want to leave.
While Biden pledged the mission to help those people leave would continue, he also made clear that America’s interest in Afghanistan was over. So, too, did he explain that the era of invading countries with an aim toward installing American values was no longer viable.
Biden argued that the US “no longer had a clear purpose in an open-ended mission in Afghanistan” and that the US’ withdrawal signaled “ending an era of major military operations to remake other countries.”
The US withdrawal was rocked by the Taliban’s unexpectedly swift takeover of Afghanistan’s capital.
Snapshots of people trying to flee the Taliban by congregating outside the gates of Kabul’s airport, along with images from inside American military planes filled with evacuees, were broadcast around the world. More than 150 Americans struggling to get to the airport were airlifted by helicopter off the roof of a nearby hotel. Thirteen US service members were killed in a terrorist attack last week outside the airport’s gates and more than 170 other people died in the suicide blast. And on Sunday, American forces carried out a deadly defensive strike targeting a suspected ISIS-K suicide bomber who posed an “imminent” threat to the airport.
Still, in his speech to mark the end of the war, Biden painted the withdrawal as an “extraordinary success.” The President contended that the US military was prepared to
deal with all those events, even though he himself has admitted that the US was caught off-guard by the quick collapse of the Afghan army.
“This is the way the mission was designed. It was designed to operate under severe stress and attack, and that’s what it did,” Biden said.
Biden paid tribute to the service members who were deployed to handle the withdrawal, including the 13 who died in the terrorist strike and praised their comrades who finished the mission.
“For weeks they risked their lives to get American citizens, Afghans who helped us, citizens of our allies and partners and others on board planes and out of the country. And they did it facing the crush of enormous crowds seeking to leave the country,” Biden said.
The President, who faces a political reckoning for the US’ handling of the withdrawal, said in a statement Monday that “it was the unanimous recommendation of the Joint Chiefs and of all of our commanders on the ground to end our airlift mission as planned.” He’s also argued that he thought chaos in the country was inevitable when US troops departed.
Biden asserted during his speech on Tuesday that even if evacuations had started sooner, “there still would have been a rush to the airport, a breakdown in confidence and control in the government.”
“And it still would have been a very difficult and dangerous mission. The bottom line is there is no evacuation from the end of a war that you can run without the kind of complexities, challenges, threats we face. None,” he added.
The President said he takes responsibility for the decision to withdraw at the end of August, but he also blamed his predecessor, former President Donald Trump, for signing on to an earlier agreement with the Taliban for a US withdrawal on May 1.
“My predecessor, the former President, signed an agreement with the Taliban to remove US troops May 1, just months after I was inaugurated. It included no requirement that the Taliban work out a cooperative government arrangement with the Afghan government,” Biden said.
“But it did authorize the release of 5,000 prisoners last year, including some of the Taliban’s top war commanders, among those that just took control of Afghanistan. By the time I came into office, the Taliban was in its strongest military position since 2001.”
Tuesday’s remarks were the first time Biden had spoken in front of the press since Monday’s full withdrawal. The White House initially left it to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US Central Command Commander Gen. Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie to speak in the hours after the
final military plane left the country.
On Monday, McKenzie acknowledged that the US military “did not get everybody out that we wanted to get out.”
“But I think if we’d stayed another 10 days, we wouldn’t have gotten everybody out that we wanted to get out and there still would’ve been people who would’ve been disappointed with that. It’s a tough situation,” he added.
As of Monday, more than 122,000 people had been airlifted from Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul since July, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters, including 5,400 Americans.
And in the 24 hours leading up to Monday morning, 26 military C-17 aircraft lifted off from Kabul carrying 1,200 evacuees, according to Gen. Hank Taylor, the deputy director of the Joint Staff for Regional Operations. In total, 28 flights departed from Kabul airport in that 24-hour window, Taylor said.
A senior State Department official said the department believes there are fewer than 250 American citizens currently in Afghanistan — and Blinken said Monday that number may be closer to 100 — who may wish to leave, as US officials stressed a Taliban commitment to let Afghans leave the country after the US and allies left. The State Department official put the number of American citizens who have left the country through evacuation flights or other means closer to 6,000.
“We’re trying to determine exactly how many. We’re going through manifests and calling and texting through our lists,” Blinken said in remarks at the State Department.
The State Department no longer has any diplomats in Afghanistan and has moved its diplomatic mission in the country to Doha, Qatar, Blnken said. He added that the diminished US presence in Afghanistan is not necessarily the end of US commitment there.
The top US diplomat noted that there are residents of Afghanistan who have US passports who are trying to determine if they should leave.
“Our commitment to them, and to all Americans in Afghanistan, and everywhere in the world, continues,” Blinken said.
Biden said he intends to hold the Taliban accountable to their commitment that those seeking to leave the country will be able to do so safely.
And during Tuesday’s remarks, he reiterated his administration’s commitment to continue to go after terrorism around the globe, saying the US will “go after terror where it is today, not where it was two decades ago.”
“To ISIS-K: We are not done with you yet,” Biden said, vowing a “tough, unforgiving, targeted, precise strategy” for last Thursday’s airport attack. ISIS-K has claimed
responsibility for the attack.
The US carried out a defensive airstrike on Sunday
targeting a suspected car bomb headed to the airport. The strike killed nine members of one family, including six children, according to a relative of those killed who spoke to a local journalist working with CNN.
Biden said the terror threat has metastasized and that “the threat from terrorism continues, but it’s changed. Our strategy needs to change too.”
The President also acknowledged the new challenges include those presented by China and Russia, saying there’s nothing the two nations “would rather have and want more in this competition than for the United States to be bogged down another decade in Afghanistan.”
This story has been updated with additional developments on Tuesday.
CNN’s Allie Malloy, Jeff Zeleny, Betsy Klein, Barbara Starr, Oren Liebermann, Jennifer Hansler, Nicole Gaouette and Jason Hoffman contributed to this report.
By Mark Lowen
BBC Europe correspondent
France is the oldest ally of the US but is the alliance under strain?
A series of disagreements, most notably over Afghanistan, have some European leaders revising their expectations about President Joe Biden, and thinking more about a future untethered to the US.
From a white-knuckle grip with Donald Trump to an arm on the shoulder with President Biden, Emmanuel Macron’s greetings tell the story of how EU leaders saw the change of US administrations.
At a Nato summit in May 2017, the French president dug his fingertips into President Trump’s hand, staring him in the face. “It wasn’t innocent”, Mr Macron later said. “In my bilateral dialogues, I won’t let anything pass.”
Roll forward four years to the recent G7 summit in Cornwall, Joe Biden’s first as US president, and again Mr Macron grasped the moment. As the cameras snapped, he walked across the beach with his arm around Mr Biden. The body language shift was clear: the two sides arm-in- arm once again.
But in capitals across Europe, from London to Berlin, Afghanistan has soured the sweetness of Joe Biden’s honeymoon. It’s not the fact of the withdrawal itself that has rankled but the US’s lack of coordination with allies, particularly since the Nato mission at the time of the drawdown comprised troops from 36 countries, three- quarters of whom were non-American, leading to an international scramble to evacuate.
The German deployment in Afghanistan was its first major combat mission since World War II, so the frustration at how it ended runs deep. Armin Laschet, Germany’s conservative candidate for chancellor ahead of elections
later this month, called the US withdrawal “the greatest debacle that Nato has experienced since its foundation”.
German troops return home after pullout last week
Czech President Milos Zeman labelled it “cowardice”, adding that “the Americans have lost the prestige of a global leader”.
“Expectations were very high when Joe Biden came in – probably too high, they were unrealistic,” Carl Bildt, Sweden’s former Prime Minister, told the BBC. “His ‘America is back’ suggested a golden age in our relations. But it didn’t happen and there’s been a shift in a fairly short period of time. The complete lack of consultations over the withdrawal has left a scar.”
A Pew Research Center poll last year found that the percentage of Germans who had confidence in the US president to do the right thing in world affairs jumped from 10% under Donald Trump to 79% with Joe Biden. The rise in France was almost identical.
But, says Nathalie Loiseau, France’s Europe Minister until 2019, “many EU countries were in a state of denial. They thought they should wait until Trump was gone and we’d go back to the ‘old normal’. But that ‘old normal’ isn’t alive anymore. I hope it’s a wake-up call for us.”
What does the US do for Nato?
Biden defends Afghan exit as Taliban celebrate
For Europe’s leaders, the manner of the American withdrawal – and Joe Biden’s comments that the US would no longer send troops to “remake other countries” – has echoes of Donald Trump’s “America First” policy.
But while there’s frustration here over Washington’s lack of communication with EU capitals, it is perhaps too early to tell how much that will dent the widespread relief over the change of US administrations.
“The main rift under Trump had less to do with specific foreign policy decisions and more that we didn’t share the same values all of a sudden,” says Nathalie Tocci, an adviser to the EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, and a visiting professor at Harvard.
“The real trauma of Trumpism was not only ‘America First’ but that he seemed to get on more with the Xis and Putins. That we’re on the same side hasn’t been questioned with Afghanistan. What has changed is the growing preoccupation in Europe that as the US withdraws from the world, it may be very committed to protecting values in America – but what about elsewhere?”
What do countries around the world want from Joe Biden?
Indeed, some see in the Afghanistan issue simply a
continuation of the long-standing American tendency to go it alone. “Is this new?” asks Mrs Tocci. “It’s always been the European complaint about the US. But now it’s the Americans acting without coordinating their leaving, not going in.”
That feeling – that Europe has been here time and again – has thrown the debate about “strategic autonomy” back into focus: long a goal of EU foreign policy, particularly from France, which often craves a more equal geopolitical balance with the United States.
“Some other countries, such as the UK and Germany, always thought they could rely mostly on the US for security,” says Mrs Loiseau, the former French minister. “So of course they’re fearing times have changed. But we’ve often said we should rethink how Nato works. We should not remain in a state of denial.”
More harmonious relations with the US were expected after Trump
The Afghanistan chaos comes on top of other simmering transatlantic rows, which are deepening the sense that Europe’s warmth towards Joe Biden is cooling off. His administration’s failure to fully lift Trump-era trade tariffs on European goods, his call to waive patents for Covid vaccines – again seemingly made without consultation
with the EU – and his refusal to lift pandemic-related travel bans on EU countries have raised hackles.
The European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas says he’s cancelled his planned trip to the United States next week “because I do not find the lack of reciprocity on travel rules fair”. The EU has now removed the US from its travel “safe list”: seen by some as an illustration of growing tensions.
Watch the white-knuckle handshake
The EU’s concerns are now two-fold. First, that the Afghanistan mayhem spurs another migrant crisis, reawakening echoes of 2015, when more than a million people fleeing Syria and elsewhere arrived in Europe.
And second, whether an America more focused on itself, combined initially with a Germany without Angela Merkel and a France whose president faces imminent re-election, leaves a power vacuum that Russia and China are already filling. And that it will prompt actions, such as Beijing’s increasing threats to Taiwan, without fear of Western reprisals.
“There was a time when the US talked about upholding the global order,” says Carl Bildt.
“But that is not the language now coming out of the White House. Expectations for a revival of the transatlantic relationship have been deflated. And one is resigned to an
America that does it its own way.”
The first national election occurred in 1789. Along with President Washington, voters elected a large number of supporters of the Constitution. In fact, almost half of the ninety-one members of the first Congress had helped to write or ratify the Constitution.
Not surprisingly, given Anti- Madison was the Federalists’ opposition to the
youngest member of the strong new central government,
Continental Congress, his leadership was a critical factor in the development of American government. Madison proposed the Virginia Plan, he authored some of the Federalist Papers, and he wrote the Bill of Rights.
only eight opponents of the Constitution were sent to the House of Representatives. Most Anti-Federalists concentrated their efforts in state politics.
Protection of Individual Rights
An immediate issue that the new Congress took up was how to modify the Constitution. Representatives were responding
to calls for amendments that had emerged as a chief issue
during the ratification process. Crucial states of Massachusetts, Virginia, and New York (among others) had all ultimately supported the Constitution — but only with the expectation that explicit protections for individual rights would be added to the highest law of the land. Now that supporters of the Constitution controlled the federal government, what would they do?
The legal tradition of having a precise statement of individual rights had deep roots in Anglo-American custom. So it’s not surprising that the first Congress amended the Constitution by adding what became known as the Bill of Rights.
James Madison, now a member of Congress from Virginia, once again took the leading role crafting proposed amendments that would be sent to the states for approval. Madison skillfully reviewed numerous proposals and examples from state constitutions and ultimately selected nineteen potential amendments to the Constitution.
As one might expect, the nationalist Madison took care to make sure that none of the proposed amendments would
Amendment 10: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to
fundamentally weaken the new central government. In the end, ten amendments were ratified in 1791.
the States respectively, or to the people.”
These first ten amendments to the Constitution became known as the Bill of Rights and still stand as both the symbol and foundation of American ideals of individual liberty, limited government, and the rule of law. Most of the Bill of Rights concerns legal protections for those accused of crimes.
Rights and Protections Guaranteed in the Bill of Rights
Amendment Rights and Protections
Freedom of speech
Freedom of the press
Freedom of religion
Freedom of assembly
Right to petition the government
Right to bear arms
Protection against housing soldiers in civilian homes
Protection against unreasonable search and seizure
Protection against the issuing of warrants without probable cause
trial without indictment double jeopardy self-incrimination property seizure
Right to a speedy trial
Right to be informed of charges Right to be confronted by witnesses Right to call witnesses
Right to a legal counsel
Right to trial by jury
Protection against excessive bail
cruel and unusual punishment
Rights granted in the Constitution shall not infringe on other rights.
Powers not granted to the Federal Government in the Constitution belong to the states or the people.
For instance, the fourth through eighth amendments provide protection from unreasonable search and seizure, the privilege against self-incrimination, and the right to a fair and speedy jury trial that will be free from unusual punishments.
The First Amendment, perhaps the broadest and most
famous of the Bill of Rights, establishes a range of political and civil rights including those of free speech, assembly, press, and religion.
The last two amendments, respectively, spell out that this list of individual protections is not meant to exclude other ones, and, by contrast, set forth that all powers claimed by the federal government had to be expressly stated in the Constitution.
The Full Text of the Bill of Rights
Amendment I Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Amendment II A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
Amendment III No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
Amendment IV The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause,
supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Amendment V No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
Amendment VI In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.
Amendment VII In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any Court of the United
States, than according to the rules of the common law.
Amendment VIII Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
Amendment IX The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
Amendment X The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
While the Bill of Rights created no deep challenge to federal authority, it did respond to the central Anti- Federalist fear that the Constitution would unleash an oppressive central government too distant from the people to be controlled.
By responding to this opposition and following through on the broadly expressed desire for amendments that emerged during the ratification process, the Bill of Rights helped to secure broad political support for the new national government. A first major domestic issue had been successfully resolved.
Understanding the Bill of Rights
The Bill of Rights remains an active force in contemporary
American life as a major element of Constitutional law. The meaning of its protections remains hotly debated. For example, the privilege to bear arms to support a militia, which appears in the second amendment, produces significant political controversy today.
More sweepingly, the extension of the Bill of Rights to protect individuals from abuse not only by the federal government, but also from state and local governments remains an unsettled aspect of Constitutional interpretation.
Originally, the protections were solely meant to limit the federal government, but with the fourteenth amendment’s guarantee in 1868 that no state could deprive its citizens of the protections in the Bill of Rights this original view began to be expanded. To this day the Supreme Court has not definitively decided if the entire Bill of Rights should always be applied to all levels of government.