Commentary: Securing the Least Bad Outcome

The Options Facing Biden on Afghanistan

Published in: CTC Sentinel, Volume 14, Issue 3 (March 2021)

Posted on RAND.org on March 12, 2021

by Brian Michael Jenkins

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Very soon, President Joseph Biden must decide whether to withdraw the remaining 2,500 U.S. troops from Afghanistan to meet a May 1 deadline agreed to by the previous administration. The consequences of the decision will decide the fate of Afghanistan and signal the United States' broader strategic intentions. The administration could decide that the United States is finally out and the Afghans are on their own, or it could announce that further troop withdrawals from Afghanistan would undermine U.S. national security interests. It could order further reductions while avoiding zero, reframe the U.S. mission, or ignore the deadline and try to extend diplomatic efforts beyond it. To the proponents and opponents of any course of action, the issues are clear. To a president who must reconcile often competing national interests, decisions are more complicated. Decisive action always looks good, but a turbulent world also means calculating risks, avoiding unintended consequences, and hedging bets.

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