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Joe Biden's Afghanistan Problem

www.newyorker.com
6 min read
fairly difficult
David Rohde writes about the damaging effects of President Joe Biden's withdrawal from Afghanistan on his approval ratings and on the upcoming midterm elections.
When President Joe Biden announced in the spring that he planned to pull all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan, it appeared to be a politically deft decision from an Administration rapidly replacing the chaos of the Trump years with competence. The nearly twenty-year war had long faded from American headlines and consciousness. Voters on the left and the right were eager to end a largely forgotten conflict that Biden's predecessors had allowed to become, through a combination of inattention and shoddy strategy, America's longest war.

Yet the manner in which the withdrawal was conducted and also the Taliban's triumph have had a political impact on Biden that has surprised me and other journalists who covered the conflict and long ago assumed that the general public had lost interest in it. Polls and pollsters now say that Biden's handling of Afghanistan is one of two issues—the other is his response to the Delta variant—that have played a role in his approval ratings approaching those of Gerald Ford and Donald Trump at the same stage of their Presidencies. The majority of Americans favored ending the war, but the Taliban's barring Afghan women and girls from attending school, the abandonment of Afghans who allied themselves with the American effort, and continued violence from ISIS seem to have taken a toll. On Friday, an apparent ISIS attack, the second in a week, killed more than forty minority Shiite Muslims as they prayed in a mosque in the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar—the latest of several signs that the Taliban are struggling to govern the country.

Biden's decline in approval is among crucial voting groups for Democrats, such as women, independents, and young people. Despite years of Islamophobic, anti-immigrant fear-mongering by Trump (and a long American tradition of xenophobia), nearly seventy per cent of Americans polled support the resettlement of Afghan allies, after they undergo security screenings, in this country. Americans have not been this…
David Rohde
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