On Today’s Show
On GPS, at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET:
Fareed shares his take on how superpowers can overcommit themselves far from their own borders, in light of Kabul’s fall—but first, guest anchor Jim Sciutto brings you the latest on Afghanistan.
Rina Amiri of NYU’s Center on International Cooperation and veteran Afghan journalist and news director Sami Mahdi parse the latest developments and discuss Afghanistan’s present and future.
How does the world see America, now that the US and NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan has been followed by chaos? Jim asks Russian International Affairs Council Director-General Andrey Kortunov and Yale University senior fellow and former UK Member of Parliament Rory Stewart.
Next, Fareed gives his take on a fallacy that superpowers too often embrace—the idea that they can maintain stability far from their borders.
“As we watch the tragedy that is unfolding in Afghanistan, keep in mind, that American forces have spent two decades in Afghanistan,” Fareed says, drawing a parallel to Britain’s 1899 annexation of Sudan.
“Ultimately, Afghanistan is not central to America’s position as a global power,” Fareed says. “Britain’s greatest mistake during its imperial heyday was its failure to distinguish between its vital interests and those that were peripheral.” The Soviet Union’s involvement in Afghanistan abetted its collapse. These histories offer lessons about “imperial overreach” that the US should remember, Fareed says.
After that, as the pandemic brings loss, isolation, and big life changes, how can we stay resilient? Fareed talks with Yale professor Laurie Santos, host of “The Happiness Lab” podcast.
Finally, Fareed examines Italian Prime Minister “super” Mario Draghi’s triumph over populism as Italy builds back.
Petraeus on What Went Wrong
Many have asked how the world’s most powerful military could have lost this war—and which missteps hurt the most. At The New Yorker, Isaac Chotiner asks retired Gen. David Petraeus, who commanded multinational forces in both Iraq (2007–2008) and Afghanistan (2010–2011) and later directed the CIA (2011–2012), what went wrong.
Petraeus lays out five lessons from Afghanistan: “The first is that Islamist extremists will exploit ungoverned spaces, or spaces governed by kindred spirits in the Muslim world. … No. 2 is that you actually have to do something about this problem itself. You can’t study it until it goes away. … No. 3, in doing something, the U.S. generally has to lead, and that is because we have such an enormous preponderance of military capabilities … The fourth lesson is that, if you want to really deal with the problem, you can’t counter terrorists like Al Qaeda or the Islamic State with just counterterrorist forces … the key there is that you have to have a comprehensive approach” that includes political brokering, restoring basic services, reestablishing local institutions, and building infrastructure. “No. 5 is, the reason that we need those host-nation forces to do that fighting on the front lines is that we have to have a sustainable approach.” Another factor Petraeus cites: Pakistan’s availability to the Taliban as a relative safe haven.
Have US Alliances Really Been Damaged?
To hear some tell it, after the fall of Afghanistan, US allies have little reason to believe America’s promises. Not everyone agrees.
“These takes are … well, they are wrong,” Daniel Drezner writes for The Washington Post. “The U.S. desire to withdraw from Afghanistan does not translate into a similar preference about Europe, Latin America or the Pacific Rim, all of which contain more vital U.S. interests. … Long-standing allies are not going to fret about U.S. resolve in the face of Afghanistan. They are going to worry about whether the Biden administration will mess up other policy initiatives as badly as it messed up in Kabul.”
As Drezner notes, Robin Niblett, director and CEO of the British international-relations think tank Chatham House, has argued that the withdrawal from Afghanistan signals a rebalancing of US attention toward other regions, which allies in them should welcome. “The new initiatives that the Biden administration has put in place with its European and Asian allies in the past six months promise to be far more meaningful to the future of transatlantic and Indo-Pacific security than the legacy of its failures in Afghanistan,” Niblett writes for Foreign Affairs.
A Less-Isolated Taliban?
As the Global Briefing noted on Thursday, the Taliban appears to be “making nice” in search of global recognition—by promising not to engage in reprisals and by signaling rights for women, for instance—as The New York Times’ Max Fisher put it. The Economist suggests Afghanistan’s new rulers could be “less isolated than the West may hope.” From 1996–2001, the Taliban “were international pariahs,” but this time things are more complicated.
Western powers may not believe that the Taliban has changed its violent, repressive ways, but the group’s “humiliation of America has predisposed some big countries in their favour, including China, Iran and Russia,” the magazine writes. “Even these countries, however, are extremely wary of the Taliban. The victors in Kabul are a long way from achieving widespread international acceptance.”
An Afghan Media Chief on the Future of Afghan News
Saad Mohseni, chairman and CEO of MOBY Group, which runs the national independent Afghan TV network TOLO, tells Politico’s Heidi Vogt that media are operating with relatively few restrictions, but he expects that may change as the Taliban consolidates power and turns its attention to shaping institutions. (Mohseni gave the interview before the Committee to Protect Journalists reported that two female Afghan TV anchors, with a different network, were taken off air. Western journalists have faced their own difficulties reporting in the country.)
“[W]e thought we’d be shut down by now,” Mohseni says. “We’re surprised we’re still operating, and we’re trying to figure out what we do next. Like most things in Afghanistan, we’re sort of making it up as we go along. Because the collapse was so quick, really, it has caught everyone by surprise … As I said, it’s an hour by hour situation. Things can change very, very quickly. We are out there doing stories and some of which are critical—and can be certainly construed as critical—of the Taliban. And, you don’t know, some guy may watch it this evening and may say ‘this is enough’ and they send security guys to shut us down.”