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Stay, go, delay: Joe Biden is trapped and has no good choices in Afghanistan

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Of all the foreign hazards, snares, pitfalls and timebombs left behind by Donald Trump, Afghanistan is arguably the worst. Joe Biden must decide in the coming days whether or not to abide by his predecessor’s shabby “peace deal” with the Taliban and withdraw all US troops by the end of April. It’s a president-sized trap.

The point being, there is no peace, no viable deal, and no easy answer. All three main options – leave now, delay the US and Nato departure by, say, six months, or stay indefinitely – are fraught with danger. Biden may be damned whatever he does. The war is a hole dug by others. But he’s in it now – and it risks becoming his hole.

Biden’s lucky, in the sense that, for him, this is a political problem. For Afghans, it’s a matter of life and death. UN figures for 2020 reveal a surge in violence after Trump recklessly ordered what amounted to a dishonourable retreat. The final three months of last year saw 2,792 civilian casualties, including 891 deaths.

The same period brought a rise in assassinations of civil society activists, government workers, and journalists, particularly women, even as Taliban and US negotiators discussed future power-sharing and a permanent ceasefire. Those talks are now on hold pending Biden’s decision. Meanwhile, fighting in southern Afghanistan is intensifying.

Almost exactly 20 years after George W Bush invaded, with UK and Nato backing, Afghanistan’s misery can be quantified in many other ways. The Save the Children charity reported last year that at least 26,000 children were killed or maimed between 2005 and 2019 – an average of five........

© The Guardian

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