There are many reasons for the collapse of Afghanistan after 20 years of fruitless bloodletting and wasted treasure. But as with most debacles the primary cause is a failure of strategy and policy, not intelligence.
President Joe Biden is certainly complicit. But he is not the main architect of the Ghani government’s demise, a title that rightly belongs to Donald Trump the self-styled “master of the deal”. The businessman turned president committed the cardinal negotiating sin of gratuitously committing to withdrawing US forces – the main Taliban objective – thereby forfeiting all leverage in the farcical, drawn-out peace talks that continued right up to Kabul’s fall.
Biden’s decision to confirm Trump’s supine deal undermined the morale of the Afghan government and, critically, the army. John Howard, among others, makes the valid point that Biden could have left a residual force in Afghanistan to send a strong signal of continued support for the beleaguered government. This could have been maintained almost indefinitely with little pain for considerable geopolitical gain.