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Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Biden’s dilemma in Afghanistan

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Is America’s Longest War Finally Coming to an End?

This is the question President Biden faces ahead of the May 1 deadline to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan, where they were deployed shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks. colleagues Helene Cooper and TM Gibbons-Neff of Biden’s three basic options and potential risks.

1. Withdraw now. Biden’s story suggests he could personally favor a quick pullout, says Helen, who covers the Pentagon. As vice president, Biden argued for a smaller U.S. presence in Afghanistan than Barack Obama’s military advisers wanted. (He lost that argument.)

Now that Biden is in a position to decide, his outlook appears to have changed. He said it would be logistically difficult to get the roughly 3,500 U.S. troops home by May – a deadline Biden inherited from Donald Trump. “Think about how you move into an apartment and you live there for a year, how much it takes to move,” says TM, who is based in Kabul, the Afghan capital. “Imagine going to war for two decades.”

A hasty departure could also have consequences for Afghanistan. The Trump administration has agreed to pull out under a deal struck last year with the Taliban, the repressive militant group that ruled much of the country before the invasion of the United States. The Taliban already supports targeted assassinations against Afghan civilians and soldiers. If US forces leave, some Afghans and US officials fear the Taliban will attempt a military takeover.

Biden’s doubts about the May deadline may also reflect domestic political concerns. As the conflict continues to shape life in Afghanistan, it has faded from the perspective of many Americans. That could change, says TM, “if Kabul falls to the Taliban on the evening news.”

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2. Delay. The United States could extend its withdrawal for a few months while continuing to support the peace talks between the Taliban and the democratic Afghan government. Biden seems to lean towards this option. “We will be leaving. The question is when,” he said last week.

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This option could avoid the chaos of a quick withdrawal. But that can only delay further violence if the Taliban and the Afghan government fail to reach a power-sharing deal.

The Taliban want the US out and have reduced their attacks on US troops after reaching a deal with the Trump administration. “Expect attacks on US troops to come back in force if we stay past May 1,” says Hélène.

3. Stay. Biden can conclude that some US troops should stay in Afghanistan to support the still weak Afghan army and to help protect the imperfect but real progress in women’s education and democracy the country has made since 2001.

Similar justifications helped keep Biden’s two immediate predecessors entangled in Afghanistan, and they could extend U.S. involvement into a third decade. The war cost an estimated $ 2 trillion and thousands of Afghan, American and Allied lives.

“Leaving will likely mean a complete reversal of all the gains made over the past 20 years,” says Helene. “But the presence of troops in perpetuity is not something political leaders are keen to sell to the public.”

For more: Negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government are expected to continue this month in Turkey. Whether or not they strike a deal, the Taliban thinks they have the upper hand.

  • Jurors in Derek Chauvin’s trial heard moving testimony from a teenage store worker who described the moments before George Floyd’s death, and viewed police camera footage of the arrest. Here are some other takeaways from day 3 of the trial.

  • Four people, including a child, have died after a shooting at an office building in Southern California, the third mass shooting in the United States in the past 16 days. Authorities are expected to release more details this morning.

  • New York State has legalized the use of recreational marijuana. And state prisons will end long-term solitary confinement.

  • After remaining silent last week, Delta and Coca-Cola, two of Georgia’s largest companies, expressed their “clear” opposition to the state’s new law aimed at restricting access to voting.

  • A Hong Kong court has found prominent pro-democracy activists guilty of unauthorized assembly. This is part of a campaign led by Beijing to crush the opposition.

  • Aleksei Navalny, the jailed Russian opposition leader, has declared a hunger strike, demanding better medical treatment.

  • Musician Paul Simon has sold his writing catalog to Sony. Several other famous songwriters have made big deals recently.

  • After about 10 minutes of grocery shopping, a man from New Mexico returned to his car to find 15,000 bees in the backseat.

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  • The border crisis is driven by the willingness of American companies to hire unauthorized immigrants, which lawmakers fail to resolve, writes Christopher Landau, Trump’s ambassador to Mexico.

  • Gail Collins and Ezra Klein have columns.

Weft: Would you buy your dog a charcuterie board?

Lives lived: The white minority government in Rhodesia has jailed Janice McLaughlin, an American nun, for speaking out against atrocities against black citizens. Years later, when Rhodesia became Zimbabwe, she returned to help establish an education system. McLaughlin died at 79.

Ryan Kaji is 9 years old. He is also the highest paying YouTuber of the past three years. Kaji is widely popular for videos where he reviews toys, and UKTN reported that he made nearly $ 30 million last year.

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The kids’ section of YouTube is lucrative: Half of the platform’s 10 most popular videos are aimed at kids, and the catchy children’s song “Baby Shark” is its most watched video. But as Bloomberg Businessweek reports, Kaji’s success goes far beyond the advertising dollars of his videos. Like the Olsen and JoJo Siwa twins before him, he has an empire built on merchandising.

Kaji’s parents have made deals with Walmart and Target for toys and clothing, as well as TV deals with Amazon and Nickelodeon. A line of shoes with Skechers is in the works. Most of Kaji’s revenue now comes from the licensing side.

Other children’s YouTube channels are also profiting: Cocomelon, which has more than 100 million subscribers, offers a range of toys. Pinkfong, the educational brand behind “Baby Shark,” offers merchandise and a Nickelodeon series.

For more on Kaji, read the rest of Bloomberg’s story.

Yesterday’s Spelling Bee pangram was Ankle bone. Here is today’s puzzle – or you can play it online.

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Here are today’s mini-crosswords and a hint: fly (five letters).

If you want to play more, find all of our games here.


Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow. – Ian

PS Our colleague Sarah Lyall writes about burnout and motivation as more workers consider returning to the office. Tell him how you are doing.

You can see the first printed page of the day here.

Today’s episode of “The Daily” is about the Amazon union vote in Alabama. On “Sway”, Cathy Park Hong discusses anti-Asian racism.

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