Special Departures Podcast Episode on Afghanistan featuring Alexander Cooley

The rapid collapse of Kabul in the final weeks of the US withdrawal has forced a reckoning of not only Washington’s failure in the region but broader questions about US foreign policy and what the Biden administration wants (or is actually able) to achieve.

This week Departures with Robert Amsterdam is pleased to welcome a return guest for this special emergency podcast, Prof. Alexander Cooley of Barnard College, who is a highly regarded expert on Central Asian politics and the coauthor of the excellent book, “Exit from Hegemony: The Unraveling of the American Global Order.” (Click here to listen to our original interview with Alexander Cooley and Daniel Nexon.)

According to Cooley, Biden’s mishandling of the Afghanistan withdrawal should be understood in the context of his own history on this area of this world, including his opposition to previous surges, and his insistence that the pullout had to happen now without any extensions, without any further excuses to be further, inextricably drawn into a permanent military presence.

Robert Amsterdam offers the comment that US policymakers have allowed domestic politics to interfere far too much in high-level strategic decision-making, which makes Joe Biden a lot more similar to Donald Trump than many would care to admit.

Cooley also emphasizes just how much the region has changed since the original invasion in 2001, with the development of the SCO structure and the active participation and preparation of foreign interests, including but not limited to both China and Russia.

“Let’s face it: China does get a global win out of this,” Cooley says. “US prestige, credibility is badly damaged. The overall narrative that the US goes into places, doesn’t finish the job, and leaves in its wake collapsed states is strengthened. And it allows them to play a greater proactive role in shaping and redefining the region in the North-South axis.”