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Changing Geopolitical Power Dynamics in the Face of Afghanistan’s New Regime | Mainstage

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politico logo red e1635340128103 - Changing Geopolitical Power Dynamics in the Face of Afghanistan’s New Regime | Mainstage

Michael Waltz, U.S. Congressman, R-Florida
Ro Khanna, U.S. Congressman, D-California
Ryan Heath, Senior Editor, POLITICO


The withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan requires a reassessment of global power dynamics. Representative Michael Waltz, U.S. Congressman, R-Florida, expressed his support for the Biden Administration’s new defense partnership with Australia given China’s aggressiveness in the Indo-Pacific region. Representative Ro Khanna, U.S. Congressman, D-California, agreed, reinforcing bipartisan support for the move. 

Ryan Heath, Senior Editor at POLITICO, asked the congressmen about India’s role. Rep. Waltz noted that India may be our most consequential partnership and that the U.S. needs to work to develop it further. He expressed concern that unrest in Afghanistan may destabilize the region. Rep. Khanna offered support for India as a pluralistic democracy that shares U.S. faith in markets and entrepreneurship. Given India’s history of colonization, the country is still developing as a democracy.

Health asked whether China was poised to sweep into Afghanistan after the U.S. withdrawal. Rep. Khanna expressed his belief that withdrawal was the correct decision and explained that the U.S., as a pluralistic nation of immigrants, remains strong. Rep. Waltz expressed greater concern about the Taliban and the erosion of rights under their leadership, especially for women. He worried that the U.S. would need to reestablish a presence in Afghanistan, as it did post-withdrawal in Iraq, to deal with terrorist threats. Both congressmen agreed about the need for accountability for mistakes made during the war, during withdrawal, and continuing today. 

China is our greatest adversary and is on a path—I believe, in President Xi’s own words—to replace the American Dream with the China Dream. We’re going to compete with that by being strong with our alliances.

Rep. Michael Waltz

I think withdrawal was the right decision, and we can now invest that money to make sure we’re winning in science, AI, the space race, synthetic biology, clean technology, and all of the things that are going to make us more competitive than China.

Rep. Ro Khanna

Can I take it that you both support more accountability about what happens next in Afghanistan? There will be further inquiry in Congress.

Ryan Heath

Key takeaways & next steps:

  • The messy withdrawal from Afghanistan has divided U.S. politics, but the actual results in the region are not yet known. 
  • Accountability requires an honest assessment of the mistakes that were made during the conflict, from the Bush Administration through the Biden Administration.