EMERGENCY: The U.S. and NATO must reengage in Afghanistan NOW


“The Afghan government could fall quickly,” The Trenchant Observer, July 5, 2021, updated July 21, 2021.

We are appalled, looking at the debacle in Afghanistan triggered by President Biden’s disastrous decision to surrender and withdraw from the country. Biden, instead of conducting a serious policy review and listening to his generals and senior advisers, simply followed his gut and proceeded with the implementation of Dondald Trump’s February 29, 2020 surrender nd withdrawal agreement with the Taliban. Biden didn’t even replace Zalmay Khalilzad, Trump’s ambassador in charge of the Doha negotiatons.

Biden’s failure to replace Khalilzad was powerful evidence that he didn’t want a serious review of the policy represented by the February 29,, 2020 agreement. That agreement is one of the most shameful international agreements ever entered into by the United States.

Trump didn’t give a hoot about Afghanistan, but rather signed the agreement with the Taliban in the hopes of bolstering his presidential campaign by keeping one of his promises.

The agreement itself was scandalous, exchanging unilateral American (and NATO) troop withdrawal for vague promises by the Taliban not to let the territory of Afghanistan be used by terrorist groups attacking the U.S. and its allies, and to enter into negotiations with the Afghan government for a political settlement of the nearly 20 year-old conflict.

Biden and the U.S. knew that once the withdrawal of U.S. forces was set in stone the Taliban would have no incentives for good-faith negotiations with the elected government of President Ashraf Ghani. The facts have proven that to be the case.

The disastrous nature of Biden’s decision to implement Trump’s surrender and withdrawal agreement with the Taliban has been recognized by virtually all serous military and foreign policy experts with deep knowledge of and experience in Afghanistan.


1) “Afghanistan: Biden’s Achilles Heel,” The Trenchant Observer, March 27, 2021;

2) “Biden’s looming foreign policy catastrophe in Afghanistan,” The Trenchant Observer, March 21, 2021.

Now, the Kabul government is teetering under the military onslaught of the Taliban who, far from exhibiting good faith, assassinated the director of the government’s Communicaitions Center a couple of days ago.

Recently, two provincial capitals have fallen to the Taliban, the latest just today. The Taliban have great military momentum. There is an enormous risk that the Afghan government in Kabul will start to collapse in the coming days, weeks, and months. With a sudden loss of morale among the Afghan troops, a collapse could happen very quickly.


1) Akhtar Mohammad Makoii (in Herat), “Taliban seize second Afghan provincial capital in two days; Airport of Sheberghan is only part of northern city to remain under government control following assault by insurgents,” The Guardian, August 7, 2021 (14.59 BST).

2) Al Jazeera and news agencies, “Sheberghan: Taliban captures second Afghan provincial capital; Deputy governor says Taliban captured Sheberghan, less than a day after taking over Zaranj in Nimruz province,” Al Jazeera, August 7, 2021;

3) Agencias (Kabul), “Los talibanes capturan la primera capital de provincia desde que lanzaron su última ofensiva
La contraofensiva afgana en la ciudad de Lashkar Gah causa cerca de un centenar de bajas entre los insurgentes,” El País, 06 ago 2021 (19:57 CEST);

4) Susannah George and Ezzatullah Mehrdad, “Taliban fighters overrun an Afghan provincial capital for the first time since withdrawal of foreign forces,” Washington Post, August 6, 2021 (6:28 p.m. EDT).

The Post reports,

“People and the security forces lost their morale,” said Gul Ahmad Noorzad, a parliament member from Nimruz. Noorzad said Afghan government forces largely fled the city of Zaranj, allowing the Taliban to move in without a fight.

“The Afghan forces simply took off their uniforms and crossed into Iran,” he said, along with many civilians and government officials.

It is the mark of a great leader and of a great country to be able to admit a grave mistake, and to reverse course to avoid catastrophe. However,the momentum of government organizational processes and decision making render such a reversal unlikely.

But such a reversal is ugently needed and dictated by the facts on the ground.

The U.S. and NATO must urgently reengage in Afghanistan, if the logical consequences of this foreign policy disaster–cataclysmic failure, humiliation, and broad strategic defeat–are to be avoided.

A further consideration, which Biden and the Democrats might well reflect on, is that a ollapse of the Afghan government, and its heartwrenching consequences, could cost the Denmocrats one or both houses in 2022, and the presidency in 2024.

The Trenchant Observer

The Trenchant Observer has been following Afghanistan closely since 2005, when he worked in Kabul as the Team Leader of group of six lawyers charged with advising the government on modernizing its criminal justice process to better meet international human rights standards.

About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.