October 21, 2021

Biden's Strategic Failures in Foreign Policy


KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • President Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan was a strategic failure, but so are many of the administration’s actions around the globe.
  • U.S. foreign policy during the Biden administration has abandoned allies, strengthened adversaries, and put U.S. national security at risk.
  • President Biden’s proposed defense budget was woefully inadequate for a successful strategy in our competition with China, and Democratic leader Chuck Schumer has yet to say when the Senate will take up the defense authorization bill. 

Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley called the U.S. pullout from Afghanistan “a strategic failure.” The same can be said of many of the Biden administration’s foreign policy decisions. The missteps and failures are alienating America’s allies, strengthening our enemies, and threatening our national security.

Afghanistan and Global Terrorism

The bungled pullout from Afghanistan was the kind of foreign policy disaster that can define an entire presidency as inept. President Joe Biden made things worse by trying to mislead the American public about what the military had recommended he do. The president claimed in an interview that his top advisers did not tell him he should keep a force of 2,500 Americans in the country. At a September 28 SASC hearing, General Milley contradicted this story, saying, “I recommended that we maintain 2,500 troops in Afghanistan.”

Regardless of who, if anyone, told the president a hasty pullout was a good idea, the Biden administration’s failed strategy that led to abandoning Afghanistan only emboldens terrorists around the globe. The move left the U.S. exposed to the threat of terrorism, abandoned our NATO allies, who the president did not contact for days after Kabul fell, and left other allies exposed. India now faces a significant threat of terrorism from the region.

The administration’s withdrawal abandoned American citizens and allies in Afghanistan, with no clear plan to evacuate them. The administration can’t even provide a clear number of how many people it left behind or evacuated.

We are still waiting for the administration to provide details on how it will handle terror threats in Afghanistan. The administration uses vague references to “over the horizon” capabilities, which one expert called “fictitious.” Without allies on the ground, the U.S. will struggle to track and develop targets for our counterterrorism operations. We will be dependent on countries like Russia and Pakistan − hardly reliable partners − to help us launch operations in the region. The threat of terrorism from Afghanistan is real. The Taliban never ended their relationship with al-Qaida and now have staffed their government with known terrorists from the Haqqani network. The Islamic State is present in Afghanistan and has killed American troops there. Threats will only proliferate as these groups compete to lead the next phase of global terrorism now that they believe they have defeated the U.S. in Afghanistan.

Nord Stream 2 and Other Major Pipelines

Nord Stream 2 Pipeline and Others

Nord Stream 2

Congress, the Obama administration, and the Trump administration supported policies to block completion of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in Europe. The Trump administration’s swift implementation of congressional sanctions in 2019 actually halted all deep-sea pipe laying operations for more than a year; they only resumed on January 24, after President Biden took office. The Biden administration reversed its predecessor’s decisions and ignored the concerns of the European Parliament, which passed a resolution in January calling for an immediate halt on construction. The president essentially blessed completion of the pipeline in an agreement with Germany in July.

President Biden’s failed strategy ignores many of America’s allies and partners in the region. The pipeline makes Western Europe more reliant on Russian gas. Ukraine, which used to be a major energy transit state, will become less secure as the pipeline replaces the capacity that used to run through its pipeline networks. It will free Russia to continue its coercive campaign and occupation of Ukrainian territory and to threaten other bordering states without their energy markets playing into the decisions. Some experts believe that, by artificially increasing the price of gas by cutting the supply to Europe, Russia is using the energy crisis in Europe as a way to bully the Europeans into certifying the pipeline. The Biden administration contributed to this crisis by waiving sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act and the Protecting Europe’s Energy Security Act.  

Iran

The Biden administration is intent on following the failed strategy of President Obama by reentering the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which failed to halt Iran’s march toward acquiring a nuclear weapon. Reentering the deal and lifting sanctions will only serve to strengthen a hard-line Iranian government.

Any future deal needs to cover all of Iran’s malign behavior. As a sponsor of terrorists, it continues to target U.S. citizens and our allies in the Middle East. In September, Iran-backed groups significantly escalated their activity around the region by launching more weapons than in any other month since 2018. These attacks grew more complex also, with a significant portion involving drones.

While news on negotiations is sparse, news of violations and disturbing developments in Tehran’s nuclear program is not. Iran continues to install and research new centrifuge technology, while building its stockpiles of 60% enriched uranium. All of this is in violation of the original agreement and further reduces the time the country needs to develop a nuclear weapon. The Iranians continue to block the International Atomic Energy Agency from conducting meaningful inspections. They even violated the paltry agreement allowing for limited IAEA inspection of nuclear sites.

CUTTING CORNERS ON CHINA

China’s increasingly hostile rhetoric, coercive diplomacy, and aggressive military actions threaten the U.S and its allies. China is investing significant money in its military and in technology meant to directly challenge the U.S. Unfortunately, President Biden’s defense budget did not take this challenge seriously. The Defense Department topline number of $715 billion would represent a budget cut after accounting for inflation. It focuses on research and development that will take years to realize, while shortchanging investment in weapons and capabilities that are vital in the near and medium term.

The president’s budget request for the U.S. Navy, a critical service in the competition with China, would cut purchases of ships by $700 million and proposed to retire current systems at a rate that would shrink the overall fleet. Purchases of combat aircraft would be cut by $3 billion, and the budget did away with the Pacific Deterrence Initiative. After the White House released its budget, military commanders submitted a list of programs that they say are needed but not funded. In marking up the defense authorization bill, SASC overwhelmingly adopted an amendment that added $25 billion to the defense budget to meet the needs of our commanders in the field. It’s critical that Congress take up this legislation as quickly as possible, but Democratic leader Chuck Schumer is giving no indication when the bill will move forward. This inaction gives Beijing a green light back to keep threatening our allies.

Issue Tag: National Security