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POLITICS: Reagan National Defense Forum: Experts say Afghanistan withdrawal damaged

POLITICS: Reagan National Defense Forum: Experts say Afghanistan withdrawal damaged US reliability with global partners


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Top experts warned Saturday at the Reagan National Defense Forum that the standing of the U.S. as the “partner of choice” amongst global allies has waned following the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst joined top officials at the Regan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, California, Saturday and stated during a panel that U.S. credibility was “jeopardized in the last year with the hasty and haphazard withdrawal of Afghanistan.” 

Experts are concerned that a global power shift could be at play if other world leaders are skeptical about the reliability of the U.S. to act as a strong partner.

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The Biden administration received swift backlash at home and abroad after the Taliban swiftly took over Kabul as the U.S. concluded the 20-year war in Afghanistan over the summer.

Ernst said that during the Halifax International Security Forum last month “many of our traditional allies and partners” pulled her aside and questioned what happened in August. “They are not turning to us and seeing leadership at this moment in time,” she said. “We can’t just continue to promise to be the partner of choice.

“We have to have action in this area and show the rest of the world that we are the partner of choice,” Ernst added. 

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 28: Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) speaks during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the conclusion of military operations in Afghanistan and plans for future counterterrorism operations on Capitol Hill on September 28, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Semansky-Pool/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC – SEPTEMBER 28: Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) speaks during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the conclusion of military operations in Afghanistan and plans for future counterterrorism operations on Capitol Hill on September 28, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Semansky-Pool/Getty Images)
(Photo by Patrick Semansky-Pool/Getty Images)

The Iowa senator was not alone in her concerns. 

Former Deputy Chief of Staff to President George W. Bush, Karl Rove, said during the panel Saturday that the last two administrations failed to inform the public on the U.S. mission in Afghanistan. 

“There’s a bias on the American public to trust their leaders,” Rove said pointing to a Regan National Defense Forum poll that found 1 in every 5 Americans were not sure the U.S. should have left Afghanistan. 

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“What would have happened if we had had a description over the last several years of what actually our mission was – that we’d ended the combat mission, that we were providing intelligence and air support and training?” he questioned. 

Rove argued that had the American public known why the U.S. was still in Afghanistan there would have likely been more public support to keep a military presence in the region. 

“This is a reflection of less on where the American people are and more on the failure of their leadership to be heard on these important questions, like saying we need allies, we need to be engaged in the world,” he added. 

BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 29: Karl Rove participates in a panel discussion during the annual Milken Institute Global Conference at The Beverly Hilton Hotel  on April 29, 2019 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images)

BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA – APRIL 29: Karl Rove participates in a panel discussion during the annual Milken Institute Global Conference at The Beverly Hilton Hotel  on April 29, 2019 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images)

Ernst, who served in the military, agreed with Rove’s argument and said, “It should always be America first but not America only.”

The panelists’ sentiments show a stark break by the Biden administration from the Trump administration’s centrist policies that cut international ties and focused solely on U.S. interests. 

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“We have to do a better job at explaining why America needs to engage globally,” Ernst said. “And we haven’t seen that for maybe a few decades now.” 

 “I think if the public knew and we had more transparency on why we are in certain areas of the world they would be a lot more supportive,” she added. 



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