​Is the US abandoning NATO in Afghanistan?

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here. Welcome to your week. Got a Quick Take for you. Wanted to talk a little bit about Afghanistan. The United States has announced, and not for the first time, that we will be leaving, ending the 20-year war. Detractors calling it The Forever War, and with good reason: it is the longest war that the United States has in its history ever fought, spending over a trillion dollars conservatively. Estimated well over 2000 American servicemen and women dead, over 40,000 Afghan civilians dead, and well over 70% of Americans want out, want to end the war. So you can understand why President Biden wanted to make that decision. You understand why former President Trump wanted to make that decision.


There was a thoughtful interagency process in the United States, and I will say that given gains made by the Taliban on the ground in Afghanistan, presently at the peak in terms of territorial expansion over the past years, there was a feeling among those advising Biden, that there was not a lot of confidence that the present levels of military engagement on the ground was sufficient to prevent the Taliban from taking over and the Afghan government from collapsing over the course of a Biden administration. So in other words, the decision being put to him really wasn't about: do you want to stay or do you want to leave? It was more, do you want to leave or are you prepared to expand, to have another surge of American and other troops to help ensure that the Taliban doesn't actually take over the country? And the answer, in relatively short order, was no.

I want to be clear, I'm personally glad that we're able to leave. This has been enormously painful and expensive and dangerous process. It feels unending. We killed bin Laden. We degraded Al Qaeda. Those were the proximate goals for the war, but the idea of building up the Afghan government and leaving stability was always a much taller order than the United States appeared to have stomach for and would have been an immense challenge, irrespective of how much resource the Americans put on the ground.

But I am worried that we're leaving our allies in the lurch and I want to dig into that a little bit. I mentioned that there was a thoughtful interagency process inside the United States of whether the Americans would stay or go, but that was not a discussion had with American coalition partners in NATO who have been shouldering the majority of the burden in the war in Afghanistan heretofore. The coalition together has more troops on the ground than the United States. They've lost, they've suffered more casualties than the United States. And perhaps most importantly, many of them have much bigger domestic concerns about radical Islamic terrorism - think about France, for example, think about Germany, think about the U.K - than the United States, where today terrorism is mostly domestic, homegrown, and it's mostly white nationalist.

We told them we were leaving and they better get on board, and of course, publicly they are, because if the world superpower and their ally is out, then, well, what choice do they really have? But they're really not happy about that and I've had that conversation with a number of allies at this point who are basically saying, "Look, there's no way for us to maintain our presence if the Americans aren't there. There's no way for us to continue economic support given how corrupt the local government is, because if the Americans aren't there on the ground overseeing that process. There's no way to make sure the money's going to where it needs to go. It's going to be wasted." So the view is that this goes from a relatively robust process to one that really falls apart in short order, and the likelihood the Taliban takes over in the coming months to years goes up.

Now, again, I'm not saying that I think that should make this Forever War continue for 10, 20, 30 years. But I do believe that the United States owes it to America's allies to engage in that discussion collectively before we make a decision. I get the point that the Quad is the shiny new object. The United States is much more concerned about China than it is about what's happening on the ground in Afghanistan. The Japanese are seen in many ways as the most critical ally in that regard. First head of state visit to the United States was indeed Prime Minister Suga. They have been underprioritized for a long time, I would argue, appropriately so. Third largest economy, largest economy in the world, allied with the United States and really need the Americans. I get it.

But America's most durable alliance, as much as it is outdated in geographic orientation, still is very strong, we're very trusted partners and that's NATO. And most trusted partners of America around the world remain a part of NATO and are contributing more to NATO over time. We should stay committed, we should stay seen to be committed. First, that means the decision making process on something that is in the interest of the United States to leave, maybe we need to compromise more because of the interests of our allies. We certainly want to work with them more closely. And also, since they're going to be bearing the brunt if the Taliban takes over, they're going to bear the brunt if radical Islamic terror becomes more of a threat to their homelands, then the United States in advance of that, needs to be working collectively with them to help ensure that our fight on counter-terrorism with them is prioritizing their needs to a greater degree.

I think that we have to be willing to admit that Biden as a president, his administration is much friendlier to the allies on balance, is liked, is preferred by most, almost all of the allies on balance. But privately, a lot of the allies are saying that American unilateralism remains, in substance, if not in form on a bunch of key issues, and this was one that I think we booted a bit.

So it's difficult, right? This is not necessarily a quick post tweet to talk about all of these issues because there's a lot going on. I can understand why everyone around this has been deeply conflicted. There are no good answers, certainly. But I think we might've been able to do this one a little bit better. Anyway, that's a bit for me. Everybody be safe. Avoid fewer people, at least if you're in the U.S., and increasingly Europe, they're getting up to speed on vaccine rollout too very quickly, and I'm glad to see it and hopefully the rest of the world soon, soon, soon. Talk to y'all. Be good.

While residents of wealthy countries are getting ready for hot vaxxed summer — COVID is still ravaging many low- and middle-income countries. The horrifying scenes coming out of India in recent weeks have gripped the world, causing governments and civil society to quickly mobilize and pledge support.

But on the other side of the globe, Brazil is also being pummeled by the pandemic — and has been for a year now. Yet thus far, the outpouring of aid and (solidarity) hasn't been as large.

What explains the global alarm at India's situation, and seeming passivity towards Brazil's plight? What are the politics of compassion?

More Show less

Delhi-based reporter Barkha Dutt's decades of journalism couldn't prepare her for the horrific experience of covering the death of one specific COVID-19 victim: her own father. In a conversation with Ian Bremmer, Dutt recounts her desperate struggle to find an ambulance to take her father through Delhi traffic to reach the hospital, only for him to die in the ICU. Their in-depth discussion looks at India's struggle with the world's worst COVID crisis in the upcoming episode of GZERO World begins airing on US public television Friday, May 7. Check local listings.

A Green Party-led government for the world's fourth largest economy? That's no longer far-fetched. As Signal's Gabrielle Debinski wrote last month, most current polls now show Germany's Greens in first place in federal elections set for September 26. And for the first time, the Greens have a candidate for chancellor. Annalena Baerbock is vying to replace Angela Merkel, who has led Germany for the past 16 years.

More Show less

India and Brazil are currently the world's top two COVID hotspots. But while India's crisis is — at least according to official statistics — a relatively recent one, Brazil's COVID disaster has been an ongoing train wreck. Where India seemed to have kept the pandemic under control until some bad missteps about two months ago, COVID has been wreaking havoc in Brazil almost constantly for over a year now. And President Jair Bolsonaro's macho-posturing and COVID denialism has clearly not helped. We take a look at average daily new cases and deaths in both countries since the pandemic began.

US reverses course on vaccine patents: In a surprise move, the Biden administration will now support waiving international property rights for COVID vaccines at the World Trade Organization. Until now the US had firmly opposed waiving those patents, despite demands from developing countries led by India and South Africa to do so. Biden's about face comes just a week after he moved to free up 60 million of American-bought AstraZeneca jabs — still not approved by US regulators — for nations in need. It's not clear how fast an IP waiver would really help other countries, as the major impediments to ramping up vaccine manufacturing have more to do with logistics and supply chains than with patent protections alone. But if patent waivers do accelerate production over time, then that could accelerate a global return to normal — potentially winning the US a ton of goodwill.

More Show less

28: Yair Lapid, leader of Israel's opposition Yesh Atid (There is a Future) party, has 28 days to form a new government. President Reuven Rivlin tapped Lapid after incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to cobble together a governing coalition by Tuesday's midnight deadline, further prolonging Israel's political stalemate.

More Show less

Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

How big of a blow is Apple's new privacy feature to companies like Facebook, who depend on tracking users?

The long-awaited update, including enhanced privacy features, actually empowers those users to decide not to be tracked. So that's great news for people who are sick of how the data trail they leave behind on the web is used. But it has to be said, that simple feature settings changed by Apple cannot solve the problem of misuse of data and microtargeting alone. Still, Apple's move was met with predictable outrage and anti-trust accusations from ad giant Facebook. I would anticipate more standard setting by companies in the absence of a federal data protection law in the United States. That's just to mention one vacuum that big tech thrives on.

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

India’s COVID crisis hits home

GZERO World Clips
The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal