It’s understandable why these optics would concern the American public though since the average person has difficulty understanding why their government would trust a group that it still officially regards as terrorists.
US President Joe Biden can rightly be criticized for almost everything related to his country’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, especially since he himself declared that “the buck stops with me”, but he recently spoke the truth with talking about the Taliban’s self-interest no matter how strongly some conservative might feel otherwise for ideological reasons. The American leader was correct in claiming that the Taliban doesn’t want their ISIS-K enemies to metastasize and that they’re also interested in facilitating the US’ safe withdrawal from their country on time.
This explains their coordination with the occupying forces when it comes to guarding the Kabul Airport and ensuring that the American citizens still in Afghanistan are able to safely depart. It’s also why the US military controversially handed over the names of some Americans to the Taliban in order to make sure that they’re able to pass through the group’s checkpoints and get to the airport. It’s not a so-called “kill list” even though it could in theory be exploited as one since the Taliban knows that taking out those citizens would result in a harsh response from the US military as well as reverse the attempts to rehabilitate their international image.
It’s understandable why these optics would concern the American public though since the average person has difficulty understanding why their government would trust a group that it still officially regards as terrorists. Furthermore, US officials failed to articulate the self-interest involved between all parties in this complicated operation, which resulted in folks concluding that their forces simply surrendered to the Taliban. It certainly didn’t help their cause any that it was Biden who ended up trying to explain it all to the American people since he has difficulty expressing himself as it is and came off as unconvincing while answering the press’ questions.
Of direct relevance, Russian Ambassador to Afghanistan Dmitry Zhirnov offered some insight into last week’s terrorist attacks which adds credibility to Biden’s self-interest claims. The diplomat said that “If it was indeed Daesh in the airport, then it was a challenge not to the US but to the Taliban. Because the Taliban took responsibility over Afghanistan at the moment. Naturally, they could not be fully held responsible for what is happening around the airport. But the [damage is] to their image: the Taliban have just entered Kabul, and then this happens.”
Russia also regards the Taliban as terrorists just like the US does despite pragmatically engaging with them in the interests of peace and security. Those two countries rarely ever agree on anything so it’s telling that Moscow’s man in Kabul arrived at the same conclusion as the American President. This strongly suggests that their shared interpretation of the Taliban’s self-interests vis-a-vis ISIS-K and facilitating the US’ safe withdrawal from Afghanistan has a lot of truth to it. For these reasons, while Biden can rightly be blamed for his country’s bungled withdrawal from Afghanistan, it’s unfair to criticize him for his assessment of the Taliban’s intentions.