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Episode 72: Biden's Decision to Withdraw From Afghanistan

25 Apr 2021
By Allan Gyngell AO FAIIA and Dr Darren Lim
Joe Biden 2019, photographer Gage Skidmore from Flickr,

Also discussed in this episode: bilateral relations with China for both New Zealand and Australia and Australia’s recent decision to scrap the Belt and Road Initiative – to Beijing’s displeasure. 

With President Joe Biden announcing the forthcoming withdrawal of ground troops from Afghanistan, the West’s 20 year war in Afghanistan is drawing to a close. Allan and Darren open this week’s podcast with a discussion of whether this is the right decision, and what lessons we should take from this decades-long conflict. The episode then turns to a busy week in bilateral relations with China for both New Zealand and Australia. Kiwi Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta gave her first major speech on China, and followed it with some controversial comments (in Australia, at least) about the expansion of the remit of the Five Eyes intelligence grouping. Meanwhile, the Australian government used purpose-built legislation to cancel two memoranda of understanding between the Victorian state government and the Chinese government on the Belt and Road Initiative – to Beijing’s predictable displeasure. Does this past week reveal a split in the two countries’ approach to China? What is the logic of each approach? Finally, Japan’s Prime Minister Suga met with Joe Biden at the White House, with China front and centre of the discussion—what are the major takeaways?

We thank AIIA intern Dominique Yap for research and audio editing, and thanks also to Rory Stenning for composing our theme music.

Relevant Links

“Remarks by President Biden on the Way Forward in Afghanistan”, 14 April 2021:

Scott Morrison, Press Conference, Stirling Community Centre, WA, 15 April 2021:

Nanaia Mahuta, “He Taniwha He Tipua, He Tipua He Taniwha – The Dragon and the Taniwha”, Speech to the NZ China Council, 19 April 2021:

Jane Patterson, “New Zealand, Australia foreign ministers discuss China, Five Eyes, 501 deportees”, Radio NZ, 23 April 2021:

(Youtube Video) “’Beautiful to see’: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on the travel bubble | ABC News” [Ardern’s comments on Five Eyes], 20 April 2021:

Andrew Tillett, “Dumped foreign deals were never used”, Australian Financial Review, 22 April 2021:

U.S.- Japan Joint Leaders’ Statement: “U.S. – JAPAN GLOBAL PARTNERSHIP FOR A NEW ERA”, 16 April 2021:

(Youtube video) “How New is the New Era? 2021 Annual Reischauer Lecture with Rana Mitter, Part 1”, 7 April 2021:

Adam Tooze, “The gatekeeper”, London Review of Books, 22 April 2021:

Ezra Klein, “Four ways of looking at the radicalism of Joe Biden”, 8 April 2021:

C. Lee Shea, “The longest telegram: A visionary blueprint for the comprehensive grand strategy against China we need”, War on the Rocks, 1 April 2021: