Written by Bailey Agbai
President Biden announced a plan last week to remove all US troops out of Afghanistan by September 11th 2021. He is pictured here in Iowa in 2019.
Although only in the infancy of his presidency, Joe Biden is making history with his intention to initiate the withdrawal of the US from Afghanistan, with plans to have all troops out of the country by the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks this year.
On the topic of the War in Afghanistan, the president has said, “I will not pass this responsibility on to a fifth [president]”, and so this monumental shift in 9/11 foreign policy, whilst likely not a definitive end to the War in Afghanistan, seems to be Biden’s attempt to draw a line under it and refocus America’s interests elsewhere.
The near two-decade campaign in Afghanistan has seen the US spend north of $882 billion on military expenditure and reconstruction projects. With the Afghanistan war efforts now being wound down, there are a number of alternative investments that Biden’s administration can concentrate their expenditure on.
Before examining non-military policies, it’s important to consider the other US military operations currently active in foreign territories. The United States is still carrying out drone strikes in countries such as Yemen and Syria, and this form of warfare is likely to continue in Afghanistan even once US troops have been removed, and the conflict is no longer carried out on the ground.
However, as much as US foreign policy will still have a large military component, the Biden administration seems determined to implement a foreign policy shake-up in a move away from the foreign policy of the Trump administration.
Diplomacy, in regard to Afghanistan specifically, is likely to be a major focal point in US foreign policy going forward. With the withdrawal of both US and NATO troops, there are worries that terrorist groups will be able to rise in strength and attack US targets.
With this in mind, former president Barack Obama has called for the US to remain involved in diplomatic efforts, and so it is likely that Biden’s administration will make this a priority for the sake of both the United States’ security and the Afghan people’s safety.
Behaving as the antithesis to the previous administration, the Biden administration has imposed a number of sanctions on Russia showcasing a move away from the somewhat friendly rapport Trump entertained with Putin during his term in office.
The sanctions are in retaliation to a number of aggressive Russian actions that occurred in the Trump era and, although sanctions towards Russia are far from a new form of passive aggressive attack on the US’ part, this change in foreign policy shows a move towards holding Russia accountable for the crimes they are accused of.
Because of their overfamiliar hostility, the US and Russia’s relations arguably fail to pique as much interest as the relations between the US and Middle Eastern countries. With Biden’s commitment to ending the War in Afghanistan, he ultimately calls into question whether the US is now looking to remove itself from the Middle East and move past the War on Terror, alongside implementing stronger diplomatic relations with countries involved.
In another attempt to distance itself from Trump era foreign policy, the Biden administration initially pledged to increase the number of refugees allowed into the country up from Trump’s 15,000 a year. However, despite ending restrictions of refugees entering from Somalia, Syria, and Yemen, Biden recently reinstated and retained Trump’s 15,000 cap. However, it is worth noting there is room for this to change in the future once the pressure placed on the government by the pandemic is alleviated.
As climate change becomes an ever more important topic globally, a greater focus on it can be expected as part of US foreign policy. Although not a priority for Trump’s administration, the current administration is employing a more proactive strategy, recently releasing a joint statement with China in regard to their commitment to combating climate change.
Climate change is certainly the most modern and pressing issue for both the US and the rest of the world, and Biden’s upcoming virtual summit with world leaders to discuss the issue shows his commitment to putting it at the forefront of his foreign policy.
Combined with the withdrawal of troops within Afghanistan and criticism of Russia, the current US foreign policy seems to be one of progression rather than stagnation. It would seem as though efforts are being made to make a change and initiate a reset of foreign policy different from the foreign policy practiced under Trump.
With the end of the War in Afghanistan nigh, perhaps the War on Terror as a whole is on the verge of closing. Its end could certainly not be considered a definitive victory, but its completion, coupled with a focus on the 21st-century problem of climate change, could nonetheless mark America looking to the future rather than allowing their military and foreign policy to continue to revolve around the tragedy of 9/11.
Photo source - Flickr (Gage Skidmore)