Six lessons for US foreign policy

The writer was a leading member of the US House Intelligence Committee after 9/11. She is the author of ‘Insanity Defense: Why Our Failure to Solve Hard National Security Problems Makes Us Less Safe’

The manner in which the United States left Afghanistan a year ago cast doubt among its partners and allies around the world about its reliability and competence. The decision to end the longest military mission in US history was the right one, but there are six crucial foreign policy lessons to be learned from this chaotic departure.

First, the people of Afghanistan need the continued support of the United States, especially the women and girls whose dreams have been shattered by the rigid reimposition of the Taliban religious code, as well as the interpreters and personnel we have promised to protect. . America is already the largest humanitarian donor in Afghanistan. And the special immigrant visa program to resettle Afghan citizens who worked with US troops was also streamlined and bolstered with additional resources.

Second, the United States should show its appropriate appreciation to its allies A few months ago, I led a delegation of prominent foreign policy experts to visit Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar. A story left an indelible image. After the suicide bombing at Kabul airport on August 26 last year that killed 13 US service members and around 170 Afghans, a four-year-old boy was pushed towards an overcrowded C-130 plane. Along the way, he picked up a small package in his path, which turned out to be a three-month-old baby. Now both children are healthy and reunited with surviving family members.

What would we have done without the Qataris, who processed and helped relocate 80,000 refugees? The Emir was welcomed to Washington and his country granted “special status” as a major non-NATO ally – a designation that strengthens our partnership with a key Middle Eastern country.

The third lesson is to be selective with military missions. A better model is the role the United States adopted in response to Russia’s unprovoked and illegal war on Ukraine. President Joe Biden has made it clear that there will be no American boots on the court. Instead, it joined NATO and the EU to provide arms and aid.

A rare and welcome bipartisan action by Congress is the near-unanimous support for billions in military and economic aid. The Biden administration has also continued the counterterrorism mission, as evidenced by the assassination of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul. These are examples of limited and achievable goals.

Second, avoid the kind of “mission creep” that happened after the limited military mission authorized by Congress after the 9/11 attacks ended. Many of us had our doubts about the “clean, hold, build” and “surge” strategies that gave the U.S. military responsibility for building Western-style institutions in Afghanistan and sustaining a full military command structure. endemic corruption. A particularly egregious episode was the visible support for Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, to keep the peace in the Kandahar region.

Fifth, Congress must stay involved. The 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force, which I and all but one member of Congress supported, was the threadbare justification for 41 US military actions in 19 countries. Congress has never changed or replaced it. The AUMF update would be a great way to make the point to the American public why and when American force should be used.

Finally, sixth lesson: a global strategy for American leadership is needed. It is high time to make a compelling case for American leadership in the post-Cold War world. Understanding what the United States did wrong in Afghanistan, finding ways to provide effective and continued assistance there, and addressing Ukraine’s issues and other challenges would be a good start.

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