It’s understandable that the Biden administration couldn’t release all of the details of our plans to pull out of Afghanistan to the public in advance. It would be far too easy for the terrorists and our other adversaries to take advantage of such information to our detriment and that of our allies. But the more we learn of how this entire bug-out operation was organized, the more troubling it becomes. The most recent revelation involves how we plan on monitoring what’s going on in the country after we’re gone and what preparations are being made in the event that we need to intervene in the future.
We already learned that things were looking bleak at our embassy, as well as at the airport which currently represents the only effective means of egress. Yesterday we found out that the Taliban has been scooping up our abandoned weapons and military vehicles and parading them in front of the international press corps. But even assuming that we manage to get all of our people and those who helped us out of Afghanistan, where will they all go? We need a centralized base of operations to monitor what goes on there, preferably a place allowing the option of launching military action if required. It’s now being suggested that we set up a base of operations in a neighboring country, probably either Uzbekistan or Tajikistan. But there are several problems with that proposal and the biggest problem’s name is Vladimir Putin. (Politico)
The U.S. may need the help of an old foe in extricating itself from America’s longest war: Vladimir Putin.
The Biden administration has in recent weeks quietly engaged Central Asian governments in the hope of using one or more of the countries as bases after the withdrawal is complete. The U.S. has two main requests: a staging post for keeping an eye on terrorist activity in Afghanistan, and temporarily hosting thousands of Afghans seeking visas.
But Moscow could use its significant economic and military influence in the region to jam up those plans, U.S. officials and experts say.
Either Uzbekistan or Tajikistan would seem ideal as a base of operations for the next few years if such a deal were to be worked out. After the 9/11 attacks, we actually had a couple of bases located in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, so it’s not totally unheard of. Each would offer quick military access to the Kabul area and could theoretically be used to house Afghan translators and helpers while they are vetted for visas to come to America.
Unfortunately, this is 2021, not 2001. Things have changed. Both Uzbekistan and Tajikistan are solidly under the thumb of Russia, relying on the Kremlin for vital trade and economic aid, along with military protection. And Vladimir Putin recently described relations with the United States as being at one of the “lowest points” we’ve seen since the cold war. Also, those bases we temporarily had in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan didn’t last long. They were the subject of local Islamic protests and diplomatic pressure from Russia so they were shut down.
For either of the countries under discussion to reach an agreement like this with the United States would effectively require a sign-off from Vladimir Putin. And it’s not clear that they would welcome us even if Putin was willing to do that.
This report brings us back to the same questions I’ve been asking since the pullout began. We’ve had years (decades, actually) to get ready for this withdrawal. We’ve been telling the Taliban and the current Afghan government that we were going to be leaving since last year. And we’re only just now thinking of asking Uzbekistan or Tajikistan if we can establish a base of operations in their countries? Seriously?
Joe Biden has no room to claim that we’re in this emergency because something happened that caught us by surprise. We’re the ones setting the timetable for the departure. And only a blind person with a room-temperature IQ couldn’t have predicted that the Taliban was going to take back the country the moment we left. In terms of having a staging area close enough to Afghanistan to provide us with any real leverage, what we’re really being told now is that there never was a plan. The White House simply issued the order to bug out and didn’t take any of this into consideration.
This is a mess. Let’s all just pray that it doesn’t turn into a literal bloody mess before we get everyone out.