For now, we’re focused on the tragic scenes unfolding at the airport. But what to do after that mission ends? The US’ longest war has killed more than 2,300 troops and cost more than $2 trillion dollars. Now, two decades after the US toppled the Taliban, the extremist group is back in power. Every country — including the US — will have to decide what kind of relationship it will have with Afghanistan.
Should the United States grant diplomatic recognition to a Taliban-led government?
But we don’t all need to watch our words. Let me say unequivocally: The United States cannot recognize a Taliban-led government — certainly not any time soon.
Despite this, China doesn’t want to see Afghanistan become a new base for terrorism. The same is true for Afghanistan’s other neighbors, many of which could face domestic insurgencies drawing inspiration — or territorial support, as al Qaeda did — from the Taliban.
But with or without US diplomatic recognition, the harsh, unsavory reality is that the Taliban are now in charge. One way or another, the US will have to communicate with its leaders. After the airlift, the campaign will inevitably move to the diplomatic arena. The US’ aim now will be to pressure the new Afghan leaders from harboring terrorists and reverting to their appalling ways. The prospects look harrowing for the Afghan people, and the choices for the United States and its allies are going to be wrenching. That’s another stubborn fact that is unlikely to change.