Managing the U.S. disengagement from Afghanistan is the top foreign policy priority of the country until it evacuates all American citizens and Afghan partners who want to leave. Once that monumental task is complete, President Joe Biden and the most senior members of his national security team will resume their focus on Asia. Therefore, the responsibility to make sure that U.S. interests in the Middle East and North Africa are protected and U.S. values are promoted will fall on others in the administration. In practice, these officials will need to concentrate their efforts on not just what is urgent, but also what is important—as difficult as that may be.
Recent developments in Afghanistan have taught America that it must properly calibrate its engagement with other countries when helping them to improve conditions. Following the Taliban’s triumph, America risks over-correcting by figuratively throwing up its hands and walking away. That approach didn’t protect our interests following the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan and won’t be any more successful now. Recognizing U.S. limits should not be a recipe for neglect. That would be the wrong lesson to draw from the Afghanistan debacle. America’s power and influence—when channeled realistically—are still considerable.
The above excerpt was originally published in The National Interest.
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