Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina joined a reception in New York, hosted by the US President Joe Biden, on 22 September 2022. Credit: BSSNews.Net - Photo: 2023

Opinion: Joe Biden’s Disastrous Diplomatic Gamble

By Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury*

DHAKA, Bangladesh. 20 August 2023 (IDN) — In a series of swift and ill-conceived diplomatic moves, US President Joe Biden has plunged into catastrophic decision-making, most notably concerning Afghanistan.

Biden’s first significant move involved the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, a decision that has had dire repercussions. His statement on the matter encapsulated his stance: “As President, my foremost duty is to safeguard and defend America—not against the threats of 2001, but against those of 2021 and beyond”.

This guiding principle, according to Biden, prompted his actions regarding Afghanistan. He asserted that the continued deployment of thousands of American troops and the substantial financial commitment in Afghanistan do not enhance America’s safety and security. His emphasis shifted to a changed terrorist threat that extends beyond Afghanistan’s borders and necessitates a shift in strategy.

However, the result of Biden’s swift withdrawal has been a harrowing scenario of Afghans facing the cruelty of the Taliban, a fact even acknowledged by the White House.

While Biden claims to prioritize protecting America against present-day threats, he appears to overlook the escalating menace of contemporary terrorism compared to the 2001 attacks. The exponential growth in the size and capabilities of terrorist and militant groups over the past decades has increased global vulnerability to these forces.

Amidst these circumstances, one must question whether Biden and his administration fully comprehend the gravity and implications of such threats.

In Pakistan, a country notorious for its involvement in terrorism, the Biden administration’s reckless actions have included congratulating a caretaker government that includes the wife of the infamous terrorist Yasin Malik.

Simultaneously, Pakistan seems to be headed towards internal strife, with potential consequences for regional security, as the country’s pseudo-military regime could escalate its agenda of promoting terrorism in neighboring nations, including India.

In Iran, Biden’s diplomatic failures have inadvertently empowered policymakers in Tehran to advance their nuclear ambitions covertly. Iran has not officially declared its nuclear capabilities, but by the time of the next US presidential election in 2024, it might already have become a nuclear power, posing severe threats to the Middle East and the broader international community.

Reports indicate that in the absence of a restored nuclear agreement, Iran has enriched a significant quantity of uranium to 60% purity, indicating its progress toward a potential nuclear weapon. Iran’s actions, such as shutting off IAEA cameras at some nuclear sites, have also fueled concerns. This situation prompted Israel’s Air Force to conduct a large-scale military exercise simulating an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

In Ukraine, Biden’s policies have failed to secure a victory for Kyiv against Moscow, while Ukraine is burdened with foreign debt and a corrupt military. The bleak outlook for the Ukrainian people could significantly impact the country’s future.

Biden’s support for Ukraine clashes with the realities on the battlefield, further complicating his policy and political messaging. The situation in Ukraine and other diplomatic failures threaten to influence domestic political dynamics, potentially impacting the 2024 US presidential campaign.

According to Alex Ward of Politico, President Joe Biden faces a tricky political future as his support for Ukraine clashes with battlefield realities and souring congressional attitudes—complicating his policy and political messaging as the 2024 campaign heats up.

Ukraine’s counteroffensive is going slowly, more slowly than anyone in Kyiv and Washington expected. Ukraine’s earlier military successes led to soaring expectations, but the minefields, tough terrain, vast geography, dug-in Russians and an inability to fight combined-arms warfare at scale has bedeviled the operation.

Commenting on Ukraine issue, Michael Hlrsh wrote in Foreign Policy, with his strategy to “weaken” Russia, the US president may be turning the Ukraine war into a global one.

According to Paul du Quenoy, president of the Palm Beach Freedom Institute, Biden’s Ukraine policy is yet another failure.

According to Keith Naughton, opinion contributor to The Hill, Biden’s lack of strategy on Ukraine could put Trump back in the White House.

Keith Naughton wrote: “The most pressing security concern today is Ukraine, which is where the influence of the appeasement faction is waxing. Team Biden has had an uncertain policy on Ukraine from the start, with bluster and resoluteness followed almost immediately by back-tracking and conciliation. Its military support for Ukraine was always tempered by fear of Russian nuclear threats—which, at least so far, have turned out to be nothing but a bluff.

“The US has provided significant military aid, more than all other NATO and NATO-allied nations combined. Yet, the aid seems to lack much strategy. What Ukraine gets and what is off-limits is in constant flux. Ukraine can have advanced HIMARs but not ATACMs; cluster bombs but not F-16s. This limited strategy is reminiscent of President Johnson personally picking bombing targets—and that sure did not end well”.

The approach in Bangladesh risks elevating Islamist forces

US President Joe Biden’s approach in Bangladesh risks elevating Islamist forces like the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its ideological ally, Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI), which could potentially lead to the transformation of the nation into a neo-Taliban state. This move undermines regional stability and security, with India expressing concern over these developments. It may be mentioned here that while BNP upholds the ideologies of Hezbollah and Hamas, JeI is a strict follower of the Muslim Brotherhood doctrine.

Under such disturbing scenarios, India has reportedly conveyed to the US that the way we are taking various steps to destabilize the Hasina government is not positive for the overall security of India as a neighbouring country and South Asia as a whole, reports Kolkata’s most influential Bengali daily newspaper the Anandabazar Patrika.

Anandabazar Patrika further said: South Block (the seat of India’s external affairs ministry) thinks that if Jamaat-e-Islami is given ‘political concession’,: Dhaka will be taken over by fundamentalism shortly, reads the report that also mentioned that the liberal environment that exists will no longer exist.

New Delhi feels that if Hasina’s government in Bangladesh is weak, it will not be good for either India or America.

Meanwhile, Pranay Sharma, a senior journalist, editor, and well-respected political and foreign affairs commentator, in an opinion editorial titled “If Sheikh Hasina loses January election, Bangladesh could face prolonged political and economic instability,” wrote in The Hindu’s sister publication Frontline, “Pressure is mounting on India to bail Bangladesh out from a US-imposed political crisis that is shrinking Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s space to maneuver and encouraging political opponents, particularly Islamist fundamentalist outfits, to put her in a corner in the run-up to the country’s parliamentary election scheduled for January 2024”.

He further wrote:

The Sheikh Hasina government is perhaps India’s closest and only reliable partner in a neighborhood fraught with anti-Indian feelings and shifting loyalties. Although India has traditionally been the acknowledged “big power” in South Asia, in recent years that position has been seriously challenged by China, whose interest and footprint in the region are increasing with each passing day.

Meanwhile, the Joe Biden administration in the US has announced a series of punitive measures to check Bangladesh’s “democratic backsliding” and ensure the parliamentary election is free and fair. In addition to the threat of imposing visa sanctions against anyone who engages in election rigging, the US State Department has imposed sanctions on a number of serving and retired officials of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), a paramilitary force that has been accused of helping Sheikh Hasina’s party, the Awami League, win past elections.

Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister since 2009, has been accused of manipulating elections and intimidating political opponents to pave the way for her unchallenged authority and successive victories that have made her the longest serving leader in the country.

She has maintained that elections in Bangladesh have always been free and fair. But the US and European nations have put pressure on her to rein in supporters, officials, and government agencies and allow all political parties to participate in elections without fear. This became evident during a recent byelection in Dhaka, when an attack on an opposition party candidate by Awami League supporters led the EU to issue a strongly worded statement criticizing the government.

Biden has omitted Bangladesh from the summit of democracies organized by him in past years, although he invited Pakistan and India along with other countries. His administration also ignored Hasina when she visited Washington for a World Bank meeting in May.

Sheikh Hasina, who believes Biden is out to destroy Bangladesh’s democracy, once told her parliament that “America can throw out any government in the world, particularly if it is a Muslim nation”.

According to Pranay Sharma, the US lays a lot of emphasis on democracy and human rights in its foreign relations. However, its track record in promoting them has remained dubious. It had often called out countries for democratic backsliding but overlooked the same fault in others when its strategic interests were involved. So, the moot point is why it has chosen to accuse Bangladesh of democratic backsliding. 

Michael Kugelman, director of the Washington-based Asia Institute, said that Bangladesh was not strategically so significant that the US could not risk rocking the boat. Bangladesh is a key partner but not a key strategic bet in the US scheme, and this gives the administration the leeway to press ahead on rights and democracy issues. 

In the conclusion of the opinion editorial, Pranay Sharma wrote: “By most accounts, if Sheikh Hasina loses in the election, Bangladesh may struggle to find political and economic stability for several years and may once again become a hotbed of terrorist and fundamentalist forces. The Awami League’s departure would be a cause of concern not only for India but for the entire region if it ushers in another spell of unrest and violence in South Asia”.

Joe Biden’s diplomatic choices have set off a chain reaction of troubling consequences. His hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan has triggered a humanitarian crisis, his mishandling of nuclear diplomacy threatens regional security, his policies towards Ukraine and Pakistan appear ineffective, and his approach to Bangladesh risks destabilizing the region. These actions underscore the challenges of navigating complex global issues and emphasize the need for thoughtful and strategic decision-making in international affairs. [IDN-InDepthNews]

*Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is an internationally acclaimed multi-award-winning anti-militancy journalist, writer, research-scholar, counterterrorism specialist and editor of Blitz.. He regularly writes for local and international newspapers on diversified topics, including politics and counterterrorism. Follow him on Twitter @Salah_Shoaib

Photo: Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina joined a New York reception hosted by US President Joe Biden on 22 September 2022. Credit: BSSNews.Net

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