“We are carrying out effective counterterrorism missions against terrorist groups in several countries where we do not have a permanent military presence,” Biden said this month. “If necessary, we will do the same in Afghanistan. We have developed a counterterrorism capability on the horizon that will allow us to keep our eyes firmly fixed on direct threats to the United States in the region and to act swiftly and decisively if necessary.
However, their initial plan for Afghanistan was based on a scenario in which the United States would carry out airstrikes with the consent of President Ashraf Ghani, supporting his government’s efforts to resist any transnational terrorist group, such as Al Qaeda and Islamic State, who sought to use the country as a base of operations. The Taliban, while competing separately for control of the country, would be neutral in this category of conflict, at least on the surface.
But instead, Mr. Ghani fled, the Afghan army abruptly abdicated, and the Taliban seized power as a de facto government. As a result, a manual for any future counterterrorism operation in Afghanistan must now be revamped amid the embarrassing uncertainty over the Taliban’s intentions, especially whether they will return to hosting terrorist camps as they have done in the years. 1990, officials said.
Current and former officials briefed on the drone strike policy deliberations have only referred to the delicate internal discussions on condition of anonymity. Asked for comment, the National Security Council press office returned to The New York Times a statement it provided in March for an article on the then-nascent legal policy review.
The Biden plans make sense both in raising standards for the protection of civilians but also in maintaining greater flexibility for different contexts around the world, said Luke Hartig, who has worked on drone strike policy for the Obama administration as senior counterterrorism director on the National Security Council. .
But, he added: “Afghanistan is going to have to be very fluid. I would hate to have to write guidelines for Afghanistan right now.