“If the United States had left Afghanistan in a peaceful and orderly fashion, there would have been no effect on his popularity. In fact, it would probably have gone up,” Richard Bensel told IQNA in an interview.
Richard Bensel (Ph.D. Cornell University) is the Gary S. Davis Professor of Government. His primary fields are American politics and political economy. His research and teaching interests include American political development, parties and elections, the United States Congress, comparative state formation, political culture, institutional change, and philosophy of social science.
IQNA: The Taliban recently took power in Afghanistan again after the withdrawal of US troops from the country. Many believe that these recent events, along with the withdrawal of the US military from Iraq, show the failure of US long-term policies in the Middle East. What do you think?
Bensel: That is hard to say because it isn't clear that those policies have had the intended result. On the one hand, the most cited goals have been to guarantee the supply of oil to the West, to guarantee the security of Israel, and to suppress terrorist networks in the region. Those things have been achieved but it is far from clear that American policies have been necessary for their achievement. Many people would contend that they have been quite badly designed and wasteful of American resources.
IQNA: What do you think was behind Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw the US military from Afghanistan?
Bensel: I think that Biden is actually, if somewhat incoherently, stating his reasons. On the one hand, American involvement was incredibly expensive and seemed to only maintain a stalemate. On the other hand, the Afghan government has been very corrupt and had made very little progress in developing any sense of loyalty and legitimacy among most of the people.
The United States has, both informally and formally, told the Afghans that they had to compromise their differences and eliminate corruption. But the warnings seem to have made no difference in their performance. They have now reaped the whirlwind of their own actions.
IQNA: Some believe that the withdrawal of the US military from Afghanistan was the result of a deal between the Biden administration and the Taliban. Do you think that is the case?
Bensel: There were certainly agreements between the United States and the Taliban with respect to the withdrawal of troops and civilians. But that was probably the only agreement that was made and it was probably very ambiguous with respect to terms and details.
IQNA: It is said that Biden’s decision to leave Afghanistan will lead Republicans to impeach Biden and oust him. To what extent is this possible?
Bensel: Biden will certainly not be impeached.
IQNA: How much do you think leaving Afghanistan will affect Biden’s popularity in the United States?
Bensel: If the United States had left Afghanistan in a peaceful and orderly fashion, there would have been no effect on his popularity. In fact, it would probably have gone up. But the disastrous way in which the evacuation has proceeded will seriously damage his (Joe Biden) standing in public opinion.
IQNA: How much do you think the current situation in Afghanistan will affect the upcoming US presidential election, the Democratic Party and the political life of Joe Biden?
Bensel: It will not affect the presidential election because too many other events will transpire before Biden runs again, if he runs again. But the withdrawal will affect the midterm congressional elections next year.
Interview by Mohammad Hassan Goodarzi