Presidentish Joe Biden is desperate to get back what he gave away in his badly bungled bugout from Afghanistan, as revealed in a new AP report.
The AP puts the best spin on the story it can, only briefly mentioning in the lead what it politely calls “the backdrop of the troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.” But as it turns out, the Joint Chiefs chair and China hack Gen. Mark Milley “is meeting in Greece with NATO counterparts this weekend, hoping to forge more basing, intelligence sharing and other agreements to prevent terrorist groups from regrouping.”
The missing context: We already had all of those things prior to Biden’s petulant decision to fully pull out of Bagram Air Base.
In recent years when I wrote that it was time to give up nation-building and other feel-good efforts in Afghanistan, I never dreamed anyone would order every last American and NATO troop out of Bagram.
Reduced footprint? Sure. More burden-sharing with our allies? If at all possible, of course.
Keeping a token force at Bagram meant being able to keep an eye on the local bad guys with global ambitions. That’s without much risk (we had one combat fatality in Afghanistan in all of 2020) or expense. And without relying on a mostly mythical “over the horizon” strike capability.
A few guards, some service troops, some drones, and their supplies.
That’s all we needed in Afghanistan to make sure al-Qaeda or ISIS couldn’t metastasize there yet again.
Now we need to negotiate with countries that no longer trust us to regain the things Biden was in such a rush to throw away.
So Biden is desperate enough to try and start from scratch because these negotiations make it clear that this “over the horizon” capability requires a lot of intel and assets much closer than that:
The U.S. military has said it can conduct counterterrorism surveillance and, if necessary, strikes in Afghanistan from “over the horizon” — meaning from assets based in other countries. But they have made it clear that surveillance flights from bases in the Persian Gulf are long and provide limited time in the air over Afghanistan. So they have talked about seeking basing agreements, overflight rights and increased intelligence-sharing with nations closer to Afghanistan, including some neighbors.
Neighbors? Sad to say, but Afghanistan is the worst part of a bad neighborhood. Its neighbors are Iran (think they’ll let us base there, mmm?), Pakistan (we’d be less safe there than at Bagram), and a handful of former Central Asian Soviet Socialist Republics (and Putin has already said nyet to Biden basing American forces in those countries).
That leaves India, but its 80-year history of “anti-colonialism” after independence from Britain makes an American base highly unlikely.
Can no one in Washington read a damn map? Could no one see this coming from 12,000 miles away?