The fall of the Government of Afghanistan at the hands of the Taliban exposes Jack Sullivan, the White House National Security Adviser who recently visited Latin America. This is how members of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's security staff and the entire Mexican military leadership understand it at this time. From contacts with the Pentagon, doubts emerge about Sullivan's continuity in Joe Biden's cabinet.
The crisis is so deep that even in Washington there were talks Sunday night of a possible resignation of the Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, after he refused to interrupt his rest in the exclusive Hamptons resort. His departure at this time is unlikely but the talks are an indication of the depth of the crisis.
In the first half of August, Sullivan visited Brazil and warned Jair Bolsonaro that any electoral interference in 2022 would be considered difficult to reverse. In Argentina, he asked Alberto FernÃ¡ndez to reduce the influence of China and Russia in his government. Finally, in Mexico City, he had a delicate exchange with Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard about the direction of the fight against drug trafficking. In all those meetings, Sullivan came out as an unyielding, forceful interlocutor, a man at the center of the geopolitical chessboard. The fall of Kabul reveals his vulnerabilities.
The Mexican generals, who have strong qualms about this official, allege that Sullivan had assured Joe Biden that, after the withdrawal of the U.S. troops, the government of Afghanistan was in a position to sustain its armed confrontation with the Taliban for six or eight months. But in the end it was six days.
According to this version, Lloyd Austin, secretary of defense as well as multiple contacts in Mexico, recommended Biden stay in Afghanistan longer. The former general argued that it would be impossible to restore a country's defense capability in just two decades. He also pointed to the shortages of the regular army and the Afghan police, including unpaid wages, desertions, and bad working conditions. It is an unworkable scenario after U$ 83 billion dollars spent by the US treasury.
Sullivan's willingness to withdraw from Afghanistan is not too surprising. After having been a Barack Obama official, he retreated into the Democratic think-thank National Security Action during the four years of Donald Trump, where he repeatedly addressed the issue of security under a multilateral approach and with the United States in a non-leading role.
The pandemic and the lack of vaccines from non-core countries reinforced Sullivan's notion of "soft power," which aims to influence the security and defense actions of his interlocutors but escapes direct intervention. The Afghan crisis has a dose of this doctrine.
Last week, David Sanger, one of the chroniclers with best knowledge of the daily life of the U.S. military, revealed in The New York Times that the secretary of defense recommended that Biden keep 3,000 to 4,500 troops in Afghanistan, almost double the 2,500 troops stationed there, but the answer was no.
But Austin wouldn't be unscathed from this uncontrolled exit either. A Journalist with Axios, Jonathan Swan, reported that a meeting took place on Sunday between the secretary of defense and a group of senators and that Austin also acknowledged having erred in the calculations about the Taliban's power and the serious issues in evacuating U.S. officials and people of interest. He was accompanied by Mark Milley, also well known to Mexican officers.
Afghanistan has opened a front of internal conflict in Washington that has not gone unnoticed in Mexico. It is the first major crisis between Biden and his country's security and intelligence agencies, the so-called "deep state," previously attacked by Trump. The reports unveiled to Sullivan by these agencies were critical to decide on the departure of U.S. troops.
IN A Twists of fate, considering their own narrative, Mexican officials accept that this crisis in the neighboring country legitimizes the national security law they demanded earlier in 2020, which requires U.S. intelligence agents to report to the Mexican government and turn over copies of their reports.
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