Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Brinken and Austin visit the Gulf to resolve post-war pressures

Washington – This week, senior U.S. national security officials will meet with key allies in the Persian Gulf and Europe to see how the failed war in Afghanistan might reshape U.S. relations in the Middle East.

Secretary of State Anthony Brinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin went to the Gulf region separately and left on Sunday. They will meet with leaders who have played a central role in the U.S. effort to prevent the resurgence of the threat of extremism in Afghanistan, some of whom are partners in the 20-year struggle against the Taliban.

Austin and Brinken’s trip together was to reassure the Gulf allies. President Joe Biden decided to end the U.S. war in Afghanistan in order to pay more attention to other security challenges such as China and Russia. This does not indicate that the U.S. will abandon its partners in the Middle East. The US military has been stationed in the Gulf region for decades, including the Navy’s 5th Fleet Headquarters in Bahrain. Biden did not propose to end this existence, but he—like the Trump administration before him—referred to China as the number one security priority and a strategic challenge from Russia.

Biden said within a few hours after the last batch of U.S. troops left: “In this competition, there is nothing China or Russia is more willing and wanting than the United States in Afghanistan for another decade.”

Austin
On September 1, 2021, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin addressed the end of the war in Afghanistan at a briefing held at the Pentagon in Washington. (Susan Walsh/Associated Press photo)

When announcing his trip to the Gulf, Austin said at a Pentagon press conference that continuing to pay attention to the threat of terrorism means relentlessly responding to “any threat to the American people from anywhere”, even if the United States puts a new focus on In the strategic challenge from China.

Brinken will go to Qatar and will stay in Germany to meet with Afghan evacuees at Ramstein Air Base. They are waiting for permission to go to the United States. There, he will participate in a virtual meeting with colleagues from 20 countries on the way forward in Afghanistan.

Spokesperson Ned Price said on Friday: “The Secretary of State will express the United States’ gratitude to the German government’s invaluable partners in Afghanistan over the past 20 years and Germany’s cooperation in transporting people out of Afghanistan’s transit operations.”

Austin plans to begin his trip, thanking Qatari leaders for their cooperation during the Kabul airlift, helping to evacuate the pipeline of desperate evacuees that was initially blocked. In addition to allowing the United States to use Udeid Air Force Base to handle evacuees, Qatar also agreed to receive the U.S. diplomatic mission evacuated from Kabul at the end of the war. Qataris also cooperated with the Taliban to help reopen Kabul Airport.

During his stay in Bahrain, Austin planned to talk to the Marines who had spent several weeks at Kabul Airport conducting crazy and dangerous evacuations of Afghans, Americans and others. On August 26, a suicide bombing attack occurred at the airport, killing 11 Marines and injuring 15 others. The attack killed 13 American soldiers and dozens of Afghan civilians.

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The Pentagon chief also plans to visit Kuwait and Saudi Arabia and meet with a senior leader in a region he is familiar with. He is a retired army general and the former US Central Command commander in charge of all military operations in the region.

Saudi Arabia is clearly absent from the Gulf States Group that helped facilitate the U.S.-led evacuation from Kabul Airport. The relationship between Riyadh and Washington is strained by Biden’s efforts to restore the nuclear agreement with Iran and other issues. Just a few days before the United States left Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Russia signed a military cooperation agreement.

Biden stated that his decision to leave Afghanistan in 20 years is part of his foreign policy “page-turning” plan since 2001, which he believes has allowed the US military to stay in Afghanistan too long. Allies in the Gulf, where the threat of extremism is within easy reach, they want to know what the next US policy page will look like.

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In Europe, allies are also assessing what the defeat of the war in Afghanistan and its direct consequences mean for their collective interests, including the multi-year question of whether Europe should reduce its dependence on the United States.

The EU’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy Josep Borrell Fontelles wrote on Twitter on Thursday: “We need to increase our ability to act autonomously when necessary.”

Epoch Times Photos
Epoch Times Photos
In this handout provided by the Department of Public Affairs of the U.S. Central Command, passengers board a U.S. Air Force C-17 at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan on August 24, 2021 as part of the evacuation from Afghanistan . .Allen/U.S. Air Force Europe-Africa via Getty Images)

The United States’ European allies in NATO have more troops in Afghanistan than the United States when Biden announced in April that he would withdraw by September. Europeans have almost no choice but to join the export. Considering their limited combat power away from home, they rely heavily on American air transportation to evacuate, although they did fly some evacuations.

Some NATO allies doubt whether Biden’s decision to withdraw troops is wise, but they are not sure whether the Afghan crisis will weaken the ties between the United States and Europe. In an article, two European experts at the Center for Strategic and International Security—Rachel Ellehuus and Pierre Morcos—wrote that the crisis is indeed Reveals the “inconvenient truth” about transatlantic relations.

They wrote: “For Europeans, this exposes their inability to change American decision-making calculations and their inability to defend their interests (for example, withdrawing their citizens and allies) without Washington’s support.”

Germany, Spain, Italy, and other European countries allow the United States to use its military bases to temporarily relocate Afghans who have been airlifted from Kabul but have not yet been approved to resettle in the United States or elsewhere. Bahrain and Qatar have also made similar arrangements. Together, these arrangements eased the pressure on the evacuation operation from Kabul, which was initially so urgent that the airlift had to be suspended for several hours because there was no place to house the evacuees.

Robert Burns

Associated Press

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This News Originally From – The Epoch Times

Brinken and Austin visit the Gulf to resolve post-war pressures
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